COP24, what’s been done and where do we go from here?

As the COP24 draws to a close this week, delegates from 193 countries, activists, non-profit organisations and private sector representatives will start to leave Katowice. And as the conference disbands, commentators from across the world are starting to ask, have we done enough to stop global warming and implement the 2015 Paris Agreement?

It must be said that much remains in the balance even after two intensive weeks of discussion and debate. Let’s look at the bad news first. A bloc of four oil-producing countries – the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait – have been accused of obstructing the UN’s climate change talks. All four have refused to “welcome” the IPCC’s special report warning of dire consequences if global warming rises more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. As major fossil fuel powers each of the four countries argued that the IPCC report should be simply “noted” in discussions. Their actions have brought sharp criticism from developing countries whose citizens are most at risk from climate-induced disasters. Ralph Regenvanu, the foreign minister for Vanuatu, a nation in the South Pacific Ocean, did not hold back as he delivered a damning speech before ministers and heads of state; “Whether you welcome, or note, or shamefully ignore the science altogether, the fact remains that this is catastrophic for humanity, and party negotiators blocking meaningful progress should have much on their conscience.” The talks were marred by further controversy earlier this week when Australia became the only nation to join the US at a pro-coal event where the US announced its commitment to extracting fossil fuels and warned against climate change ‘alarmism’.  Australia has also stated that it will not commit to larger carbon emissions reductions. As a result, the brokering of a “rulebook” for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement has slowed.

If you are wondering whether there is light at the end of the tunnel, allow me to illuminate some of the more promising developments from COP24. Following the stalls in talks earlier this week, UN Secretary General António Guterres returned to Katowice and he did not mince words. Speaking to the plenary he stated, “We’re running out of time. To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.” In response, some countries have upped their game. The High Ambition Coalition, a group of countries including the EU, Canada and New Zealand, as well as a large group of least developed countries and several other developing nations, have pledged to scale up their plans to cut emissions in line with the IPCC’s warning that global warming cannot rise above 1.5°C.

Other bright spots in the talks have included climate change commitments from fast and high fashion companies. Inditex, Burberry and 41 other companies have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The launch of the Sports Climate Action Framework brings together 17 major sporting committees and federations in an initiative designed to get the sporting industry on track for a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. The sport industry is responsible for extensive carbon emissions through travel, energy use and catering. People from around the world were galvanised into collective action as part of the #ClimateAlarm initiative. On the 8th of December citizens of more than a hundred cities across the globe marched together to demand stronger commitments to climate action. In Brussels a record breaking 75,000 people took part. Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old Swedish schoolgirl made a lasting impression at the UN climate summit when she challenged world leaders to better climate action. Thunberg’s words taken hold in Sweden, Poland and Australia where school children have gone on strike in protest against climate inaction. New initiatives like the People’s Seat have been widely applauded for encouraging a spirit of openness and inclusiveness in the midst of complex political discussion.

So what do we take away from the last two weeks? Consider this progress as ‘two-steps forward and one step back’. Commitments from fashion and sports industries, collective action from across the globe as well as significant pledges by the High Ambition Coalition have brought us closer to significant climate action. But at the time of writing, the “rulebook”  for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement has yet to be finalised and the oil bloc of Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, continue to drag their feet.

Further reading:

Article by: Isobel Squire (with reviews from Jana Fleischer and Daniella Domsa)

Sustainable Development Goal No 13 and the Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World

E_SDG goals_icons-individual-cmyk-13.jpgThe COP24, Conference of the Parties 24, started this Monday, but why should we concern ourselves with what is happening in faraway Poland? The answer is simple: Because we live on the same planet and climate change concerns us all eventually. In this regard we want to introduce you to the Sustainable Development Goal no 13, which is dedicated to climate action, and how we can contribute to this goal and make the world more climate friendly.

So here we go!

“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” that is the main message of the SDG No13. But what does this mean exactly? The UN defined it with the following five sub-goals it wants to reach by 2030:

  1. Strengthen the flexibility and the capacity to adapt to climate related disasters in all countries.
  2. Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and into planning.
  3. Build knowledge and the capacity to tackle the climate change. This includes an improvement of education, extensive awareness-raising and the human and institutional capacity building. Hereby, the focus is on mitigation, adaption and impact reduction of climate change and an early warning system.
  4. Implement the commitments of developed countries towards the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This also includes a pledge by developed countries to mobilise $100 billion together every year as contribution to the Green Climate Fund, in order to support the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions.
  5. Promote mechanisms to raise the capacity for an effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries and small island developing states.

The question now is: What has been achieved since the establishment of the SDG no 13?

In April 2016, 175 parties ratified the Paris Agreement and 168 parties communicated their first contributions. Additionally, 10 developing countries had successfully completed and submitted the first iteration of their national adaption plans for responding to climate change. In terms of the UNFCCC $10.3 billion had been raised, which is only little more than one 10th of what was planned on being raised until 2020. Furthermore, the implementation of national adaptation programmes of action will help the least developed countries prepare and seek funding for comprehensive national adaptation plans, thereby reducing their risk of being left behind.

In this regard, this 24th climate conference is especially important, because concrete rules and tools should be ratified now, in order to implement the Paris Agreement. If that will not happen, the fight against global warming and climate change will suffer a major setback.

But even if no agreement will be reached on the issue of committed implementation, we as the people can help to stop the severe consequences of climate change. Here are ten steps that every one of us can implement, even when sitting on the sofa:

  1. Calculate your carbon emissions with the Carbon Calculator. This way you are more aware about the amount of CO2 you produce and hopefully this motivates you to apply some of the following steps.
  2. Find a Goal 13 charity you want to support. Any donation, big or small, can make a difference! (See the “Get Involved” section on https://www.globalgoals.org/ for inspiration)
  3. Recycle paper, glass, plastic, metal and old electronics, in order to avoid exhausting our finite natural resources and raw materials.
  4. Composting food scraps can reduce climate impact while also recycling nutrients.
  5. Choose reusable products. Use an eco-bag for shopping and a reusable water bottle or a cup to reduce your plastic waste.
  6. Buy eco-friendly products. Read the packaging to see if products are produced in an eco-friendly way.
  7. Bike, walk or take public transport. Save the car trips for when you’ve got a big group.
  8. Consume less meat and become vegetarian for one day a week. The meat production industry has a huge impact on the environment.
  9. Reduce your use of paper. Avoid printing and substitute it with electronic devices or carriers.
  10. Stay informed. Follow your local news and stay in touch with the Global Goals online or on social media.

These are only a few ideas on what YOU can do.  If you want to get even more involved or are looking for other ideas, than try the Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.

For further reading:

More on the SDG 13: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg13 and the SDG Tracker

More about the COP24 on: https://cop24.gov.pl/.

The ICPP report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

A guide on becoming climate neutral, developed by the UN for citizens.