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Climate negotiators strike deal over Paris climate treaty

December 15, 2018

A global climate summit has ended in Poland with an agreement on how the 2015 Paris climate accord will be implemented. However, countries could not even agree to 'welcome' the findings of the IPCC report.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka reacts during a final session of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland
Image: Reuters/K. Rempel

Almost 200 countries on Saturday reached an agreement on implementing the Paris Climate Accord after two weeks of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations.

The result of the tortured negotiations in the Polish city of Katowice is a 156-page rulebook on how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions and update their emissions plans.

What was agreed

The document covers a wide gamut of topics, but some key points of the deal include:

  • An agreement on how countries should report their greenhouse gas emissions and the efforts they're taking to reduce them.
  • An assurance of financial support for poor countries to help them cut emissions, adapt to inevitable climate changes, and pay for damages that have already happened.

Read more: COP24: Frustration and hope in the fight against climate change

Sticking points

Points where nations struggled to find common ground include:

  • How to create a functioning market in carbon credits, with countries such as Brazil wanting to keep carbon credits amassed under an old system. Agreement on the issue postponed for a future meeting.
  • Acceptance of the conclusions of the blockbuster IPCC report. Countries such as Saudi Arabia managed to water down wording to merely welcome the "timely completion" of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.
  • There was also a general lack of ambition in the final text to reduce emissions, with countries agreeing to consider the issue at a UN summit in New York next September.

Read more: Divisions persist as climate talks drag to a close

Thousand steps forward

"It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical. Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together. You can feel proud," Polish president of the talks Michal Kurtyka told delegates. "We will all have to give in order to gain," he said. "We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity."

Climate change action groups said the agreement was a good start but it showed a lack of urgency among nations. 

Executive director of Greenpeace Jennifer Morgan said: "We continue to witness an irresponsible divide between the vulnerable island states and impoverished countries pitted against those who would block climate action or who are immorally failing to act fast enough."

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said: "While some rulebook elements still need to be fleshed out, it is a foundation for strengthening the Paris Agreement and could help facilitate US re-entry into the Paris Agreement by a future presidential administration."

How bad is the situation? The IPCC report that caused so much division at the negotiations found that to keep warming capped at 1.5 degrees there needs to be a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels. It warned that if the world warmed to even 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, hundreds of millions of people would face dangerous climate-related risks by 2050, and 99 percent of the world's coral reefs would be wiped out. Greenhouse gas emissions need to drop by about 60 percent from current levels by 2030 to stay on a 1.5-degree path.

aw/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

UN climate talks deadlocked