The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP24, got underway on Sunday in Katowice, Poland, to something of a rocky start, despite a call from previous COP Presidents to “send an unequivocal message … for enhanced ambition by 2020 that puts the world on a trajectory compatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”
Each year at this time, the eyes of the world’s energy and environmental industries turn to the latest location of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and meets each year to make decisions ensuring the effective implementation of policies agreed upon by involved parties. This year’s COP24 is being held in Katowice, Poland, from December 2 to 14.
Straight out of the gate, however, the opening plenary was delayed on Sunday in part because of a request from Turkey to downgrade its status to that of “developing country” — a move intended to soften Turkey’s responsibilities. Developed countries — those listed in the Convention as Annex I countries — are expected to contribute more to climate financing and emission reductions than developing nations. The COP presidency agreed to schedule consultations on Turkey’s proposal.
Similarly distracting from the core purposes of the Conference is the position of host country Poland regarding its reliance upon coal for its electricity generation. Protestors picketed the site of a former coal mine in Poland over the weekend in an effort to shine a light on the country’s coal industry. According to the World Energy Council, Poland consumes 77 million tonnes of coal per year, making it the tenth-largest coal consumer in the world and the second-largest in the EU, after Germany, securing 92% of its electricity and 89% of its heat from coal.
Unfortunately, it would appear Poland has arrived at the Conference fully intent on ensuring everyone knows it is not ashamed of its coal use, considering that its own pavilion design ethos is prioritizing coal:
— Pascoe Sabido (@pascoesabido) December 2, 2018
This comes after the United States continued to impose its gravity on the Conference, promising to put on a literal coal sideshow on the sidelines of the event only days after it was revealed that the US had been responsible for a dramatic watering-down of the joint communique (PDF) published at the end of last week’s 13th meeting of Group of Twenty (G20) held in Buenos Aires, Argentina — though it turned out to be only marginally better than previous draft versions.
However, there is still hope that this Conference will be able to solidify the guidelines necessary to fully implement the Paris Agreement of 2015 through the Paris Rulebook. It’s also important to remember that COP24 is taking place only two months after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C which warned that “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
In line with the importance of this event, the presidents of COP20, COP21, COP22, and COP23 issued a joint statement (PDF) over the weekend calling on all “Parties and non-Party stakeholders to send an unequivocal message from Katowice for enhanced ambition by 2020 that puts the world on a trajectory compatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”
The joint statement was signed by Laurent Fabius, President of COP21, Frank Bainimarama, President of COP23, Salaheddine Mezouar, President of COP22, and Manuel Pulgar Vidal, President of COP20.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also published a statement Sunday outlining the priorities for this year’s COP24 which includes the Talanoa Dialogue, climate action before 2020, and the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action.
“This year is likely to be one of the four hottest years on record,” said Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s Climate Chief. “Greenhouses gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and emissions continue to rise. Climate change impacts have never been worse. This reality is telling us that we need to do much more – COP24 needs to make that happen.”
Similarly commenting on the necessary outcomes from COP24, 350.org Executive Director May Boeve explained that “We expect to see a way forward to upgrading action on climate prior to 2020, as our representatives promised in Paris. But the choice of fossil fuel companies to sponsor the conference casts a long-shadow over such hopes.”
“We also expect a strong and comprehensive Paris Agreement rulebook agreed in Katowice. A rulebook that ensures that governments stop all new fossil fuel projects, turn off the funding tap to dirty energy, and actually prepare, plan and invest in a just transition to 100% renewable energy.”
“But no matter what happens in the negotiating corridors in Katowice the change is already happening the world. Cities in Ukraine and Georgia have committed to go 100% renewable; community activists in Poland are shaping a new consensus on what the economy and development should look like; and financial markets are increasingly black-listing fossil fuel industries like coal.”
“We’re on a fast road to suffering unless we act now. People are already dying from the impacts of climate change,” added Greenpeace’s head of delegation at COP24 Jens Mattias Clausen. “This is the harsh reality that leaders must confront at COP24. They are the last generation of leaders who still have the time to act. They must put the Paris Agreement to work and ramp up action now. Only through fast, bold change can we alter the course of history.
“The window of opportunity is open – but only just. Climate science still provides hope, but the time for political talk has long gone. People are clamouring for action. Children are walking out of schools, the vulnerable are calling for justice or launching lawsuits and communities are standing up to defend their forests. Which leader will stand with them and deliver them reasons for hope?”