By: Engr Sarfraz Saroya
Sink or swim, onus is on us
The world’s nations took another step toward addressing the perils of climate change at the latest Conference of the Parties (COP24), which concluded on December 15, 2018, in Katowice, Poland. The most important product of COP24 appears to be a “rulebook” that has been described by the United Nations as a “robust set of guidelines” for implementing the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement – a landmark accord that aims to limit global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The 256-page common rulebook, known as the Katowice Climate Change Package, spells out how countries will provide information about their domestic climate actions, including mitigation and adaptation measures, and details of financial support for climate action in developing countries.
he 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded on December 15, 2018, at Katowice, Poland. After a busy two weeks, the nearly 14,000 delegates from 195 countries managed to agree on a rulebook for achieving their Paris Agreement promises. It began with a stark warning by Sir David Attenborough who urged world leaders to tackle “our greatest threat in thousands of years.” He also warned that “the collapse of our civilisation” is “on the horizon” if we don’t take concrete action now.
Much of the discussion at the conference revolved around two important documents – the 2015 Paris Agreement and the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The latest IPCC report says that heating is the largest source of non-agricultural carbon emission, followed by transport and power generation, with fossil fuels dominating all sectors. There are various other sources which contribute varying degrees of carbon emission.
Considering the above situation, COP24 agreed on a rulebook that includes how governments will measure, report and verify their emissions reduction efforts. The 133-page rulebook uses the legally binding word “shall” instead of “should” in many places. On the climate finance issue, the rules are relatively permissive, giving flexibility to rich nations in what and how they report their contributions.
According to Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, countries’ climate pledges are based upon “nationally determined contributions”. To this end, the final decision says that all countries “shall” use the latest emissions accounting guidance from the IPCC. But the IPCC guidance was last updated in 2006, and is due for another update in 2019. Hopefully, the new report will consider the high global potential of methane. Under this rule, emission and proposed emission reductions will be regularly compared, added up and assessed in light of their adequacy for limiting warming well below 2 degree and 1.5 degree centigrade. A legitimate concern here is that even though the intention is to use the same accounting rule by all parties concerned, the final Katowice text allows countries to use “nationally appropriate methodologies”. However, the countries agreed that their pledges will be recorded in a public registry and the pledges should cover a “common timeframe” from 2031.
Article 6 relates to market mechanisms. Countries can trade over achievement of their climate pledges and individual projects can generate carbon credits for sale. This means that a country can get carbon credit for its emission cutting efforts and carbon sinks. Brazil hopes to benefit from its large rainforest cover and asked for a new form of wording. But critics said that this would allow double counting of credits and undermine the integrity of the system. Also, it has been reported that the emission cuts are taking place in sectors not covered by a country’s climate pledge. So, the countries should be able to do voluntary carbon trading as the Agreement says that such trading is “consistent with guidance” but it does not say anything about cases in which there is no guidance. So, the rules under this article remain unresolved and were set aside for further discussion at the COP25 meeting due in Chile later this year.
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