COP24 Wraps Up With Last-Minute Compromise to Save Paris Agreement, But Is It Enough?
Negotiators from more than 190 countries reached an 11th-hour deal at COP24 in Katowice, Poland Saturday to keep the Paris agreement alive, but scientists and negotiators say it does not go far enough to put climate change on hold, CNN reported Sunday.
However, participants celebrated the fact that they had reached an agreement at all after a tense two weeks of negotiations.
"We have worked on this package for three years. With 200 countries in the room it is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical. But in these circumstances every single step forward is a big achievement," COP24 President Michal Kurtyka of Poland tweeted.
The deal reached Saturday codifies a rulebook for the implementation of the Paris agreement. What it doesn't address is how countries will further reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, since the talks were focused more on how pledges would be reported than what they would actually contain. As of now, countries' current pledges would put the world on track for three degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels, which would have devastating consequences for agriculture and coastal communities. Countries must show how they have met their current pledges and agree to tougher ones by 2020, The Guardian explained.
"The real test is what happens when countries go home," Union of Concerned Scientists director of policy and strategy Alden Meyer told The New York Times. "All the decision text in the world doesn't cut a molecule of carbon. You need action on the ground."
Here are the broad-strokes of what was and wasn't agreed over the past two weeks, as outlined by Carbon Brief.
- Climate Pledges: The countries agreed that they would use the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) most recent guidelines for accounting for their emissions and make their pledges available on a public registry.
- Equal Rules: Going in to COP24, one major question was whether developed and developing countries should follow different or the same rules for how often they should report their progress and what they should report. The negotiators ultimately agreed on a fixed set of rules for all countries, with a caveat that countries who claim they need flexibility with following these rules can make use of it, as long as they explain why they need it and for how long. All countries must begin reporting their progress according to the new rules by 2024, and every two years thereafter.
- Climate Funding: One of the promises of the Paris agreement was that developed countries would help provide developing countries with the funds to both reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. To this end, they were supposed to provide $100 billion by 2020, but ActionAid USA director of policy and campaigns Brandon Wu said the rules agreed to in Poland undermined this goal. That is because they allow countries to count loans in addition to grants when they report climate financing. Negotiators did agree that developed countries "shall" and developing countries "should" report all money they put towards climate change adaptation and mitigation.
- Trading Mechanisms: One place where negotiators failed to reach an accord was when it came to the question of how countries could trade overshoots of their pledges or sell carbon credits from special projects. Brazil held up talks on this issue, as other countries tried to write stricter rules against the "double counting" of emissions cuts by the countries buying and selling credits. The question has been postponed to talks in 2019.
- The Special IPCC Report: Halfway through the talks in Poland, four countries including the U.S. prevented the meeting from "welcoming" the special report released by the IPCC in October, which warned that countries have 12 years to nearly-halve emissions in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In a final compromise, the COP24 expressed its "appreciation and gratitude" for the report, welcomed its "timely completion" and "invited" countries to make use of it.
For Simon Stiell, Grenada's minister for climate resilience and environment, and other representatives of low-lying or island countries especially threatened by climate change, the compromised language on the IPCC report did not adequately reflect the urgency of the moment, but it did at least allow negotiators to reach an agreement, paving the way for future progress."We understand the need to consensus-build," he told CNN. "And for small island developing states we have achieved our minimum—minimum—asks with regard to key issues."
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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a sweeping climate bill on Thursday that would have put the commonwealth on a path to eliminating carbon emissions by 2050.
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World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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