From ramping up countries' climate ambitions to operationalising the Paris climate agreement and defining a role for businesses in implementing it, the fortnight of UN climate talks and side-events centred on one key theme: translating commitments into ambitious, transparent climate action for all.
While our team digests the conversations and implications of the big issues debated in Poland's coal capital Katowice, here is a short recap of the topics that we will be following closely (and for an in-depth analysis from our experts, join our 'Climate Digest' webinar on 29 January 2019 at 3pm CET):
We've agreed on (some of) the rules of the game: The Paris Rulebook
In a sporting game with no rules, everyone loses. The same goes for the Paris Agreement. An objective, like scoring the most points – or limiting global warming to 1.5°C – is no good without fair and transparent guidance on how to get there. That's why the Paris Rulebook was so important as the overarching goal of COP24.
In a nutshell:
- Nearly 200 countries agreed on the rules of how they will adhere to the Paris climate agreement, operational as of 2020. These rules define how nations will document their emissions and their progress toward climate goals, and provide climate finance to poorer nations, among others.
- However, an incredibly important part of the rulebook, the carbon markets section, also referred to as Article 6, was not agreed on due to interventions from Brazil. The discussions on how to use markets to limit carbon emissions will continue in the run-up to COP25 that will be held in Chile.
- The delay on Article 6 further reinforces the importance of exploring pilot transactions to reflect and innovate on the practical ways of moving forward, which is why South Pole is already pioneering Article 6 pilot projects.
- Committed countries and businesses are encouraged to already kick off collaborations to build cooperative markets to avoid double counting, among others. South Pole has joined the Katowice Declaration on Sound Carbon Accounting to help highlight the need for a robust system to avoid the double-counting of emission reductions.
But we need more ambition – and more climate action from non-state actors
The transition to low-carbon is the only real growth story we have – a growth fueled by anything else apart from clean technologies would disrupt lives and business. To get there, the entire global community needs to urgently bend the emissions curve in order to stay below 1.5℃ warming, in line with what science demands. But we cannot transform economies in silos – we need both countries and non-state actors, such as companies and cities, to reach ambitious targets.
In a nutshell
- Having everyone acknowledge the science of climate change, and more specifically the special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was a key topic at the conference in order to ensure more ambitious climate action in national climate pledges.
- While there were examples of fear of economic strain hindering ambition, it is not only big oil and coal producers who need to work harder to transition to clean energy: the latest Emissions Gap Report shows that global emissions reached a record high in 2018.
- Overall, companies and investors reiterated their commitment to invest and finance – but they must have the right incentives and low-risk policy environments from countries to do so (reflected in national climate commitments or 'NDCs'). Simultaneously, voluntary (carbon) markets are also growing more vibrant as corporate leaders respond to investor and customer interest in climate responsibility.
- On the energy transformation, governments need to team up with philanthropies and investors, as shown by the coal-to-renewables partnership in South East Asia, which South Pole supports.
- Cities, home to 70% of global CO2 emissions, need adequate financial instruments to implement their ambitious goals.
- In terms of accelerating action, channelling finance towards reforestation & forest conservation projects through REDD+ is a proven way to achieve emission reductions at scale, as well as additional benefits for society and the environment. Many governments at the national and subnational levels, international financial institutions and companies have already undertaken the necessary groundwork to ensure the effective implementation of REDD+, following the Warsaw Framework.
What happens between now and COP25?
There will be many milestones and key meetings in the run-up to the next climate summit in Chile:
- June 2019: UN inter-sessional negotiations kick off in Bonn, Germany, where discussions on Article 6 will be restarted
- August 2019: The IPCC is set to release a special report on climate change and land
- September 2019: UN climate summit and a UN high-level political forum on sustainable development will take place in New York, US
- October 2019: A pre-COP25 will be held in Costa Rica
- November 2019: COP25 in Chile (date, location uncertain), where Article 6 will be the main agenda topic