The Race Against Time: On COP24 and Why It’s So Important

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With CO2 emissions on the rise, there is increasing pressure to safeguard our ecosystems and livelihoods from the devastating effects of Climate Change.

COP24, the informal name for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, was a summit intended to finalise the Paris Agreement implementation guidelines. The original agreement made back in 2015 was to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees – a target which is yet to be achieved. Failure to reach the initial agreement has contributed to global warming reaching a dangerous tipping point, and as concerns mount over the narrowing window of opportunity for securing a sustainable future across the nations, so too is the concern for individual governments to ensure that they don’t forfeit on their end of the deal.

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The rapid incline in global temperatures has signalled the necessity of a global intervention which is why COP24 was so critical. The 2018 summit was hosted in Katowice, Poland (pictured above), the heart of the country’s coal-mining region, and amongst its attendees were some 200 nations. Although it has been reported that these negotiations were not entirely promising, some progress has been made in terms of outlining how efforts to lower carbon emissions will be documented across the governing bodies who have opted into COP24.

These efforts are stipulated in the form of a “Common Rulebook” that applies to all countries. It is also one that ensures flexibility to account for poorer nations. This full disclosure is a significant element of the negotiations because it creates transparency across the board. Not only does this create the sense of a global cooperative, but it also encourages individual countries to ensure that they take accountability and continue to meet the lower emissions target by 2020. Following this key deadline, nations will be expected to have cut their emissions significantly, at which point, new, and much more ambitious, targets will be affirmed for 2030.

What were some of the key issues highlighted during the summit?

  • Firstly, the technicalities of the “Common Rulebook” make it difficult to implement. This is because countries have taken different practical approaches in terms of outlining their carbon-cutting efforts.
  • Secondly, poorer nations expressed their concerns over being inundated with regulations they would inevitably struggle to meet.
  • Legal liability for climate change was vetoed by richer nations amid concerns of raking up a huge bill.
  • Friction was caused between Brazil and other countries over the carbon credit system – these are awarded to countries based on their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Brazil hopes to capitalise off of its large rainforests though this has been heavily contested, and discussions have been postponed until 2019.

What could an increasing failure to cut carbon emissions actually look like?

Findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that we have 12 years to save the planet. They have also warned that if global warming were to reach 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial level it could result in an increased threat to our ecosystems and Arctic region, extreme weather events, coastal flooding, heat-related morbidity and mortality, coral dying off, crop yields destroyed, and many more devastating effects. Global environment editor for The Guardian, Jonathan Watts, insists that:

…time and carbon budgets are running out. By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require supercharged roll-back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years.

Will countries be prepared to put their emissions where their mouths are?

The USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have refused to embrace the IPCC’s findings. Instead, they merely commended the effort of the research. In addition, the US delegation has expressed indifference towards rising emissions, concluding that there will be no change to their climate policy. The USA is the only state in the world which has withdrawn from the 2015 Paris Agreement, though a number of other states including Russia have yet to formally enshrine in law the agreement.

An international divide has been signalled further by Brazil who withdrew their offer to host the talks in 2019. Instead, the talks are set to take place in Chile to discuss the final elements of the “Common Rulebook”.

Despite this overwhelming sense of division, the EU has pledged to further cut emissions, as well as assisting poorer nations in achieving their low emission targets.

Has the deal fallen short?

There have been calls for climate goals to happen much faster and to be more ambitious, switching to renewable energy sources and ditching fossil fuels altogether. The cost of clean energy has also reduced significantly but while it has experienced exponential growth in popularity, there are calls for this to happen quicker. In spite of some of the biggest key players opting out of the agreement, increasing pressure on the governments through lobbying and protests are stepping in the right direction. For there to be any real success, however, countries must ensure that they act quickly.

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BA Literature at UOS, Blogger, Ramen Lover, Arts and Culture.

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