Presided over by the Polish government, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UNFCCC"), or "COP24," was held in Katowice, Poland, from December 2-14, 2018. Stakeholder representatives, government officials, and ministers engaged in intense discussions, leading to a package of decisions to ensure the full implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
During the conference, the EU Commission presented its strategic vision—which takes into account the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ("IPCC") special report on global warming of 1.5 oC—for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. In addition, a joint declaration was released by the Polish presidency and the UK negotiating team committing to a "zero-emission future for transport," to which 38 countries and 1,200 organizations signed. On December, 12, 2018, 15 international organizations—including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ("OECD"), the European Investment Bank, and both the Western and Eastern Africa Development Banks—jointly announced a commitment to make their operations climate neutral. Many developed countries also pledged financial support to enable developing countries to act. The World Bank pledged climate action funding of $200 billion for the period of 2012–2025.
The landmark of the conference, however, was the adoption of a consistent system for tracking global emission reduction efforts. The Paris Agreement Works Programme ("PAWP"), or the Paris Rulebook as it is informally known, is a 133-page document covering how governments should measure, report, and verify their emission cuts, and sets out guidelines on how countries will provide information about their Nationally Determined Contributions ("NDC") to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The information to be provided includes mitigation and adaptation measures, as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries.
As a result of the agreed guidelines, there is now a universal system for the parties to track and report progress on climate action—a system that will hopefully promote an atmosphere of trust that all countries are contributing to address the challenges of climate change. As such, national systems needed to implement the Paris Agreement as of 2020 can now be established.
One casualty of the COP24 was the failure to reach an agreement on the global rules of market mechanisms (i.e., voluntary carbon market mechanisms). Such rules are needed to ensure full accounting of each ton of emissions released into the atmosphere. The failure was largely as a result of the Brazilian government seeking to water down rules to stop "double counting" of emission cuts by the country where they were generated, as well as the country paying offsets. Countries have agreed that the next UN Climate Change Conference ("COP25") will include finalizing the notes on market mechanisms.
COP24 concluded with the Talanoa Call for Action, encouraging all countries and stakeholders to act imminently. Countries were called, among other things, to update their NDCs.
The strong signal arising from the talks is that the majority of the world's largest economies look certain to strengthen their decarbonization policies over the coming years.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.