Negotiators in Katowice, Poland, completed a contentious two-week summit on Saturday, December 15, producing what has been called a “rulebook” for implementing the 2015 Paris climate agreement, reports The Guardian. This year’s Conference of Parties, otherwise referred to as the UN Climate Summits, was the 24th annual summit, and was primarily focused on implementing measures that would make the well-known Paris agreement — the Paris Protocol — operational in 2020.
Though this conference has been a regular UN event since its creation in 1995, this year’s summit was of particular interest and importance, given the most recent warnings surrounding climate change.
In October of 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the UN body that “… [assesses] the science related to climate change,” released its most recent annual report. Its findings indicated a global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, as well as the results of such warming, including possibilities of major resultant crises as early as 2040 being far likelier than previously presumed. This year’s report — the first to be commissioned under the Paris Agreement — warned that, if warming continues at its current pace, the global community could easily face rising waters levels that will submerge major coastal cities, subsequently intensifying famines and droughts.
COP24, which began on December 2, brought together 25,000 delegates to set guidelines for 200 countries to attempt curb global warming below the 1.5 degree mark in order to avert the crises warned of in the IPCC’s report. Despite the severity and importance of these findings, several states — the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait — rejected a resolution that would have seriously addressed the ramifications of the warming discussed in the report, and its result was a resolution that merely touched upon the matters at hand, according to The Guardian.
In addition to this opposition to stronger measures, last minute disagreements over carbon emission limits and markets led by Brazil resulted in the postponement of several important discussions related to emissions limits and carbon credits to next year’s summit.
Keeping warming at or below the predicted 1.5 C rise is “extremely improbable,” noted one of the IPCC’s reports co-authors, who went on to note that “… we are nowhere near [that level].” Recalcitrance at the COP24 and countries’ reluctance to impose stricter emissions limits or adhere to the proposed carbon markets only increase the likelihood that we will see warming beyond that the IPCC’s report heralds.
COP24 has resulted in a number of small steps forward in slowing global warming, and the summit next year looks to tackle even more contentious issues. Despite this progress, the world still faces steadily rising temperatures, and certain states, like the U.S., are still pulling away from their commitments to cut emissions. Given the immediacy of crises resulting from warming, we must consider that, as one expert noted in the wake of COP24, “slow success is no success.” For more on COP24 and the UN climate summits more generally, see: COP24 and and the UN Climate Change site. For more on the most recent updates and warning on global climate change, see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report.
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