COP24 outcome leaves much to be desired by some climate activists

17 Dec 2018

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After two weeks of talks, many of the world’s nations finally came to an agreement at COP24, but what has it achieved?

With many of the world’s most powerful nations in attendance – and many different national interests in play – it was always going to be challenging to secure a deal at COP24, the UN’s major climate change conference held this year in Katowice, Poland. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when a deal was only agreed within the final hours of the two-week conference.

According to The Guardian, the deal will set the rulebook for what was agreed at the 2015 Paris Agreement, but solutions for many of the biggest issues for many major nations have been postponed for future conferences. These include plans for how to finance developing nations to improve their sustainability and how to scale up carbon emission reduction, but it was a debate over carbon credits that proved to be the most contentious.

Carbon credit gives countries that reduce their carbon emissions and develop carbon sinks (such as forests) credits that can be traded with other nations when they fall under target. The point of contention at COP24 related to Brazil’s request for an amendment to the system so that it would greatly benefit from as a result of its vast rainforest cover. A number of nations opposed the idea, saying it would give too much power to one country and potentially undermine the carbon credit system. As a result, the issue has been pushed to next year’s conference.

A second major roadblock to the talks occurred after Turkey asked that it be considered a developing nation in the agreement as opposed to a developed one, thereby giving it greater leeway over its carbon emission reduction targets. However, a compromise agreement – which would eventually sign off the COP24 deal – was reached late into the night.

‘This is morally unacceptable’

“We have been working on this package for three years,” said COP24 president Michał Kurtyka during the plenary session concluding the summit.

“When we have to deal with positions of almost 200 parties, it is not easy to find an agreement concerning a multi-aspect and technical deal. Under these circumstances, each step forward was a great achievement.”

However, reaction from some of the biggest environmental groups has been highly critical of the conference’s outcome; in particular, for not calling out nations on failing to show progress to keep an increase in global average temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius, based on the recent UN report’s findings.

“A year of climate disasters and a dire warning from the world’s top scientists should have led to so much more. Instead, governments let people down again as they ignored the science and the plight of the vulnerable,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

“Without immediate action, even the strongest rules will not get us anywhere. People expected action, and that is what governments did not deliver. This is morally unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: “[There has been] some positive progress, but we have not yet done enough. The world is in a state of climate emergency and yet some of our leaders prefer to stay in a state of denial.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic