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Climate summit ends with countries ‘dragged kicking and screaming to finish line’

17 December 2018


Delegates at the closing of the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, on Saturday

Delegates at the closing of the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, on Saturday

THE UN climate summit in Poland came to a close late on Saturday night, more than 30 hours after it was scheduled to end.

At the summit, held in the city of Katowice, the capital of Poland’s coal industry, countries agreed a “rulebook” to measure the individual national pledges contained in the 2015 Paris agreement (News, 11 December 2015).

But campaigners said that the countries lacked ambition to strengthen these pledges, despite the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October, which warned that the world had only 12 years to prevent a climate crisis (News, 12 October).

The talks continued through Friday night and into Saturday because Brazil disagreed with the other 196 countries over the issue of trading “carbon credits”: a market mechanism for offsetting emissions. Brazil wanted to weaken rules that would allow for “double counting”. It proposed that a country could pay another to reduce its emissions, and the reduction would count for both countries. This was opposed by other countries. Since no agreement could be made, the matter was postponed until next year’s meeting in Chile.

Despite the delay, experts were pleased that the rules had been adopted, but warned that it was disappointing that countries had not responded to the urgency demanded by the recent scientific warnings.

Christian Aid’s international lead for climate change, Mohamed Adow, said: “The majority of the rulebook for the Paris agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for. But the fact that countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report.

“This was the first opportunity since the IPCC report for countries to prove to the world that they were taking this seriously,” Mr Adow said. “They’ve just about scraped a C-minus, when the scientists of the IPCC showed that they needed to get straight As.”

The chief executive of Greenpeace, Jennifer Morgan, said that all eyes would now be on a special summit hosted by the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, in 2019.

“Without immediate action, even the strongest rules will not get us anywhere,” she said. “People expected action, and that is what governments did not deliver. This is morally unacceptable, and they must now carry with them the outrage of people and come to the UN secretary-general’s summit in 2019 with higher climate-action targets.”

Joe Ware is a journalist at Christian Aid.

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