Photo: COP24 closing plenary meeting in Katowice, Poland. - Photo: 2018

World’s Poorest Look Forward to 2019 Climate Summit at the UN

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK | KATOWICE (IDN) – The year 2018 has been marked by a series of natural disasters underlining that no country is immune to the impacts of climate change. But it is the nearly 1 billion world’s poorest people living in the 47 least developed countries (LDCs) that are often hit the hardest, suffer the most, and have the least capacity to cope with the catastrophic consequences, says Ethiopia’s Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group.

“While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted . . . provide a strong basis to start implementing the Agreement. The next step, of course, is for countries to take urgent, ambitious action to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments,” LDC Group’s Chair added.

He was commenting the decision of the United Nations COP24 two-week climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, to adopt on December 15 a “robust” set of implementing guidelines for the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, aimed at keeping global warming well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

Parties need to revise and enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions before 2020 in line with their fair share, because It is well known that current pledges will not be nearly enough to limit warming to 1.5°C, Endalew said.

“To achieve the visions and the goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must commit to greater levels of climate action and support, and follow through on those commitments,” he added.

Endalew finds it “beyond disappointing” that all countries were not able to welcome the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report in Katowice. Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Kuwait and Russia wanted the final statement to merely “note” the report on the effects of a 1.5°C rise in the global temperatures, which warned of climate chaos in less than 20 years unless more meaningful decarbonisation was pursued.

The report, published in South Korean Incheon on October 8, said: Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society, the IPCC said.

The world’s 47 Least Developed Countries “wholeheartedly and unequivocally” welcome the IPCC Report, and affirm: “We cannot ignore its findings, and we absolutely must not ignore its recommendations. We must – and, importantly, we can – limit warming to 1.5°C, and that means making transformative changes across all aspects of society.”

The LDC Group’s Chair has emphasised that to avert the devastating loss and damage of 1.5°C warming, all countries, and particularly those most responsible for causing this crisis who have the greatest capacity to respond, must urgently cut emissions and provide the climate finance needed to poor countries that are still developing. “This is a matter of justice and a matter of survival,” he adds.

Besides, levels of climate finance must meet the actual costs for our countries to adapt and address the impacts of climate change, to protect our people and our communities. The LDCs also have ambitious plans to tackle climate change and develop sustainably, but they currently lack the resources to make those plans a reality.”

Much to their relief, many encouraging announcements, especially on financial commitments for climate action, were made: Germany and Norway pledged that they would double their contributions to the Green Climate Fund, established to enable developing countries to act; the World Bank also announced it would increase its commitment to climate action after 2021 to $200 billion; the climate Adaptation Fund received a total of $129 million. 

“In 2019, it will be critical that Parties carry forward the momentum from the Talanoa Dialogue. We welcome the UN Secretary-General’s climate summit in 2019, which will be an important platform for countries to commit to bolder, stronger, fairer and faster action and support,” Endalew said.

Speaking on behalf of the UN chief, Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) secretariat in Bonn said: “Katowice has shown once more the resilience of the Paris Agreement – our solid roadmap for climate action.”

Guterres, who has made addressing the impacts of climate change one of the top priorities of his term as UN Secretary-General, came three times to Katowice in the past two weeks to support the negotiations but, given the repeated delays, was forced to leave before the closing plenary, due to prior engagements.

The adopted guidelines package, called the “rulebook” by some, is designed to encourage greater climate action ambition and benefit people from all walks of life, especially the most vulnerable. 

According to UN News, one of the key components of the ‘Katowice package’ is a detailed transparency framework, meant to promote trust among nations regarding the fact that they are all doing their part in addressing climate change. It sets out how countries will provide information about their national action plans, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as mitigation and adaptation measures.

An agreement was reached on how to uniformly count greenhouse gas emissions and if poorer countries feel they cannot meet the standards set, they can explain why and present a plan to build up their capacity in that regard.

On the thorny question of financing from developed countries in support of climate action in developing countries, the document sets a way to decide on new, more ambitious targets from 2025 onwards, from the current commitment to mobilize US$100 billion per year as of 2020, notes UN News. 

Another notable achievement of the negotiations in Poland is that nations agreed on how to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023, and how to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology. 

“The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed amongst the world’s nations,” said Espinosa in a press statement. “They incorporate the fact that countries have different capabilities and economic and social realities at home, while providing the foundation for ever increasing ambition.”

“While some details will need to be finalised and improved over time, the system is to the largest part place,” she added.

Ultimately, the negotiations tripped on one key issue which will be back on the table at the next UN climate change conference, COP25, set to take place in Chile. This is the matter known in specialized circles as “Article 6,” regarding the so-called “market mechanisms” which allow countries to meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals.

This is done for example through “carbon markets” – or “carbon trading”, which enables countries to trade their emissions allowances. The Paris Agreement recognizes the need for global rules on this matter to safeguard the integrity of all countries’ efforts and ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for. 

“From the beginning of the COP, it very quickly became clear that this was one area that still required much work and that the details to operationalize this part of the Paris Agreement had not yet been sufficiently explored”, explained Espinosa, noting that the majority of countries were willing to agree and include the guidelines on market mechanisms but that “unfortunately, in the end, the differences could not be overcome”.   

 “From now on, my five priorities will be: ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition,” said Espinosa on behalf of UN chief at the closing plenary. “Ambition in mitigation. Ambition in adaptation. Ambition in finance. Ambition in technical cooperation and capacity building. Ambition in technological innovation.”

To achieve this, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Climate Summit on September 23, at UN headquarters in New York, to engage Governments at the highest levels. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 December 2018]

Photo: COP24 closing plenary meeting in Katowice, Poland.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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