Nearly 200 countries, assembled in the city of Katowice in Poland, early this morning agreed upon, and adopted, a rulebook to implement Paris Agreement, the landmark 2015 global pact to fight climate change.
The Paris Agreement, which will start getting implemented from 2020, replacing the existing Kyoto Protocol, seeks to keep the rise in global average temperatures to well below 2 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
The finalisation of the rulebook, the main agenda of the two-week year-ending climate change conference, came after discussions over one of its key elements — governance of a new market mechanism for trading of carbon emissions — had to be deferred for next year. The deferment was forced because the strong disagreements on some provisions, between Brazil and the developed world, which had stalled negotiations for two days and delayed the final outcome by more than 24 hours, could not be reconciled.
The agreement over the 133-page rulebook received a mixed response from governments and observers. While welcoming the finalisation of the rulebook, India and many other developing countries rued the fact that the “balance” that they would have liked to see in the agreement was missing.
“…To some extent, we are seeing a mitigation-centric regime in the making with the urgent adaptation needs of the developing countries relegated to a second-class status. We also sense that there is a fear that we might be creating a regime which ignores, to some extent, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities which is very important to our countries,” Egypt said while making the statement for G77 plus China, the largest negotiating group at the climate talks, of which India is also a member.
“We believe that the opportunity to fix some of the ailments that we still see in the regime that is being constructed is still before us. ..We must not gloss over the real differences between the developed and developing countries, both in responsibility and capability. We need to find a better way of doing this together. We still have a great chance to shift course,” Egypt said.
Lack of firm targets to reduce emissions leaves planet at risk
The World Meteorological Organisation warned in a recent report that the Earth was heading towards getting 3-5 degrees Celsius hotter in the next hundred years, which scientists say would cause catastrophic climate-related disasters. With the Paris Agreement, countries had decided to take action to stop global warming from not going above 2 degrees. Scientists say, however, that to prevent extreme weather and rising sea levels, global warming should be kept below 1.5 degrees. The deal signed in Katowice does not include any firm commitments by countries to reduce carbon emissions before 2020, leaving many to wonder if action can be taken in time to stop the coming of more disastrous climate-related events.
Egypt’s statement was backed by other negotiating groups comprising of developing countries, including the Africa group, the least developed countries, and the association of small island states.
India, while making a statement on behalf of the BASIC countries, comprising South Africa, Brazil and China as other members, also laid emphasis on the principles of equity and differentiated responsibilities.
“We are happy that the guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement have been formulated. Although, the Paris agreement is a significant milestone, much work remains to be done as also brought out by the IPCC special report on 1.5 degree Celsius. At this juncture, we must recall our commitment to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities in the light of different circumstances to ensure climate justice to the poor and vulnerable people across the globe,” India’s lead negotiator Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
While making a separate statement on behalf of India, Prasad also raised a formal reservation over a few provisions in the final agreement relating to a stocktake exercise of all climate actions in 2023. He said these provisions did not adequately reflect the principles of equity and differentiated responsibilities.
“India wishes to express its strong reservation regarding the treatment of equity in the global stocktake decision. Equity is specifically mentioned in Article 14 of the Paris Agreement. It is the basic principle of the Convention and the Paris Agreement… The entire global stocktake exercise will be lopsided if the process, input, the technical assessment and output of the stocktake does not fully address equity,” he said.
Christian Aid, one of the several observer organisations present at the conference, gave the outcome a “C-minus”.
The rulebook agreed to in Katowice contains the procedures, guidelines and institutional mechanisms through which the provisions of the Paris Agreement can be implemented. It specifies such things as how the emissions from every country should be measured, how these measurements should be reported and verified, the manner in which financial flows should be accounted, the information that every country needs to provide regarding their climate actions, the mechanisms for diffusion of appropriate technologies to countries and regions that need them, and many more.
A key element of the rulebook was supposed to be the governance framework for a new carbon market that is sought to be created under the Paris Agreement. But that could not be finalised due to a major fight between Brazil and some developed countries. Brazil wanted a provision that would have allowed its unused carbon credits, earned in the existing carbon market mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, to be transitioned to the new one being created under the Paris Agreement.
Carbon credits used to be earned by industries in developing countries by making verifiable reductions in their emissions. These credits could then be traded, for money, to developed countries which wanted these credits to fulfill their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Much of these credits accumulated in the last few years, however, have remained unused in the absence of demand.
Brazil was silently backed by some other countries like India and China in its fight. The developed countries opposed this transition on the grounds that the quality of these credits — the question whether these credits represent actual reductions in emissions — was suspect. They argued that the rules of the new market mechanism being set up were much more stringent than the existing ones, and therefore the existing credits must not be allowed to be transitioned.