UN climate talks inch towards agreement

Outline decision contains plans for common rule book for all countries

United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives for a meeting with NGOs before the final session of the COP24 summit in Katowice on Friday. Photograph: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives for a meeting with NGOs before the final session of the COP24 summit in Katowice on Friday. Photograph: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

 

The United Nations talks on securing a robust rule book for the Paris agreement on climate change were edging closure to agreement last night after 24 hours of notable progress.

An outline decision circulated during Friday, the last day of official talks, contained plans for a common rule book for all countries, with flexibility for poorer countries – and provision for all countries to increase their carbon-cutting commitments by 2020.

Most delegations believed, however, the final outcome was still in the balance; especially on the issue of whether it will be ambitious enough in agreeing measures to contain global temperatures to a 1.5 degree rise as required under the 2015 agreement.

Of critical importance to a majority of states was to ensure the rule book was compatible with the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which concluded it was only a matter of years before the effects of catastrophic climate change would begin to hit many parts of the world.

But the option of a two-tier rule book was still in the draft, which developing countries contended would let richer countries off the hook in addressing their responsibilities.

Among key issues not yet decided was the question of “loss and damage”, which is of most concern to least developed countries and small island states; how vulnerable communities and states in the front line of climate change impacts will be adequately supported.

Whether the damage caused by climate change would be accounted for when countries submit their climate reports to the UN was unresolved. This is being sought by vulnerable countries as it would increase pressure on the developed world to assist. The United States has traditionally resisted all mentions of loss and damage.

There was minimal progress in getting countries to make firm commitments to cut their emissions further than already committed to.

A revised text issued early on Friday called for developed countries to meet long-standing promises to boost climate-related aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, “noting with concern the urgent and emerging needs” arising from more extreme weather events in recent years.

Lockdown

A further updated text was due last night, while negotiating teams were in “lockdown” for most of the day as a series of bilateral meetings was taking place under the direction of COP24 president Michal Kurtyka.

The Irish delegation under the umbrella of the European Union has supported efforts to ensure the rule book is underpinned by clarity and transparency, with tighter deadlines and ending practices such as double counting of emission reductions.

A system for measuring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions in all states will be part of the rule book, including a “global stocktake” of overall progress on meeting the Paris goals. But the structures underpinning this had yet to be signed off, according to sources involved in the negotiations.

Leaders from the Maldives, Grenada and Ethiopia, however, concerned about the way negotiations were heading, held a press conference setting out red lines. “We are deeply unhappy with the way these talks are going,” said Maldives former president Mohamed Nasheed. “We are therefore rebelling against extinction and, if necessary, we will rebel against the negotiations.”

The group expressed their concerns in a meeting with UN secretary-general António Guterres, who has been a key presence during negotiations and was reported to have contacted key heads of state in an effort to get a deal across the line.