The Paris climate goals are closer to a reality now that countries have agreed upon a ‘rulebook’ on how to get there.

Climate delegates in Poland finally reached an agreement on several steps to make the Paris Climate Agreement fully operational in 2020 among which was a common rulebook for all participating countries (the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Agreement under President Trump).

The agreement is being called the Katowice Agreement and was reached at the international conference known as COP24 in Katowice, Poland which is Poland’s main coal hub.

A last-minute debate about the carbon market forced the meeting to delay for one day, but the delegates believe the new regulations can ensure countries keep their promises to cut their carbon emissions.

“Putting together the Paris agreement work program is a big responsibility,” Michal Kurtyka, the chairman of the talks, said. The Katowice agreement aims to achieve the main goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius.

A report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2017, which the new rulebook is somewhat based on, indicated that maintaining the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius will need changes that have never happened before in all aspects of people’s daily lives. The IPCC said that to maintain the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, all the world’s governments must cut emissions 45 percent by 2030 to prevent global warming from causing further disaster.

What’s This New ‘Rulebook’?

EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete explained how the rulebook would help, “We have a system of transparency, we have a system of reporting, we have rules to measure our emissions, we have a system to measure the impacts of our policies compared to what science recommends.”

Provisions included in the rulebook include how emissions from each country should be measured and how the measurements should be reported and verified. Other provisions include what information countries need to provide regarding their movement towards renewable energy goals, how financial information should be accounted for and more.

The achievements are significant because of the large discrepancies in how each country measures and tracks their own climate goals and financial information. The agreed upon framework will ensure transparency as countries move towards the Paris goals.

In addition to agreeing upon the rulebook, the Katowice summit attendees agreed to ensure financial support for impoverished countries, as well as signal that each country is ready to step up its effort to reduce carbon emissions. It also agreed that each member must submit a report at an appointed time to show compliance.

Some Countries Still Face Challenges in Cutting Emissions

China, Canada and the European Union (EU) showed their support for the Paris treaty by announcing their ambitious agendas ahead of the Katowice meeting. China launched its own carbon market last year and is trying to expand it. Canada last week said that its more ambitious emissions cut will be done soon. The EU announced a new target of 32 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030, up from the previous target of 27 percent. But the road towards achieving these goals is not an easy path.

While China’s CO2 emissions dropped from 2014 to 2016 due to slowed growth and health and environmental problems, in 2017 China’s CO2 emissions grew by 1.4 percent due to growth in coal-powered production. In 2017 China contributed a quarter of the global CO2 production.

According to the advocacy and research group Coalswarm, which gathers information on 13,000 existing and proposed coal plants worldwide via its “Global Coal Plant Tracker”, China is actually set to add more coal-powered capacity to its grid. Last September, Coalswarm said its satellite imagery shows China will add 259 GW of coal-powered capacity which would then match the total coal-powered capacity in the U.S.

In Canada, Saskatchewan and Ontario filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to strengthen emissions control using a national carbon rate imposed on pollution. Canada has failed to achieve every target to contain greenhouse gas emissions set up since 1992, and it is unlikely the country will meet the target in 2020, said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network.

The EU and the European Parliament failed to reach a compromise on regulations to reduce car CO2 emissions for the fourth time. Negotiations failed due to opposition from German carmakers and the differences among the member countries of the EU.

“The EU is debating on a bigger ambition in Katowice, but now we are killing that ambition on cars’ CO2,” said one of the EU diplomats who was involved in the negotiation. EU member countries that are reliant on coal are also against the parliament’s effort to stop subsidies to the most polluting factories by 2025.

The effort to cut emissions and how to cut emissions is still highly controversial, as evidenced by the national demonstrations in France.

France implemented a significant diesel fuel tax in hopes of reducing CO2 emissions, but in response, the “Yellow Vest Movement” sprang up. “Yellow Vest” protestors got their name from the yellow vests that all cars are required to carry and protestors wore worn during protests of the fuel tax. The protests were about the fuel tax but also about the larger issue of the rising cost of living in France.

Katowice Agreement Gives Hope for Environmentalists

Despite the challenges facing countries as they try to meet the Paris climate goals, many were buoyed by the achievements of the Katowice agreement.

Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris agreement, told BBC News that the Katowice agreement was a significant step forward.

“The key piece was having a good transparency system because it builds trust between countries and because we can measure what is being done and it is precise enough,” she told BBC News.

“I am happy with that. Nobody can say that’s not clear, we don’t know what to do, or that it’s not true anymore. It’s very clear.”

 

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