COP24 Katowice Consensus to Address Climate Change Threat

COP24, 24th meeting of Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held at Katowice in Poland, meant to take forward steps to address the threat of climate change and designed to achieve the Paris summit goals of limiting temperature rise to below 2°Celsius, has moved ahead on implementation of the landmark 2015 Paris climate treaty after marathon UN talks that failed to match the ambition that the most vulnerable countries need to avert dangerous global warming. Delegates from 195 countries finalised on Sunday 16 December 2018 a common rule book designed to deliver on the Paris goals of limiting global temperature rises to well below 2°Celsius.

Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was the beginning of the international political response to climate change, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted. In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference was aimed to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The earth is close to a climate catastrophe and the world is in deep trouble as average global temperatures have crossed a degree Celsius above preindustrial levels and such concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (410 ppm) has never been seen by humans before.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka said, “Putting together the Paris agreement work programme is a big responsibility,” as he gavelled through the deal after talks in Poland that ran deep into overtime. “It has been a long road. We did our best to leave no one behind.”

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had in a special report recently issued a stark warning on man-made emissions.
  • It had highlighted the need to cap the rise in global average temperature over pre-industrial levels at 1.5°C, a 45% reduction in carbon emissions over 2010 levels before 2030.
  • Most nations wanted IPCC findings to form a key part of future planning.
  • But the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected, leading to watered-down wording.
  • This is a challenge for all big economies, including India, which is among the top five emitters of carbon dioxide.
  • In the Indian context, it highlights the need for action on several fronts:
    • Scaling up solar and wind power in line with the goal of reaching 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022,
    • Steadily reducing reliance on coal, shifting substantially to electric mobility and adopting green industrial processes.
    • Taxing luxury emissions and using the dividend to give the poor energy access has to be the policy target, building on international green climate funding linkages.

Indian negotiators put forth legitimate concerns on the likely social impact of the new rules that will operationalise the Paris Agreement in 2020:

  • India emits far below the global average of 4.2 tonnes, at an estimated 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per capita.
  • Yet, cumulative emissions determine the impact on climate, and India’s emissions grew at an estimated 6.3% in 2018.
  • Prospect of increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and sea level rise in a warming world affecting small island states allows little room for complacency.
  • Task now is to achieve a paradigm shift that will slow down the addition of new sources of Carbon emissions.
  • India has to systematically assess its emissions and measure mitigation actions for reporting to the UNFCCC at stock-taking meetings as a party to the global climate compact.
  • This is an opportunity to bring major sectors such as energy production, building, agriculture and transport on board, and make changes to regulations that favour environment-friendly alternatives.
  • China has taken the lead in advancing electric mobility, while individual States and cities are ahead of national governments, as in the U.S., in reducing their carbon footprint.
  • A clean-up in India will help meet emissions commitments and remove the blanket of air pollution that is suffocating entire cities.
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