Andrew Purvis

Director, Safety, Health and Environment, worldsteel

17 December 2018

After two weeks, the UN’s international Climate Change Conference COP24 has come to an end – perhaps not in glorious triumph, but with solid progress being made and a few of the more difficult issues kicked into the long grass of COP25, to be held in Chile in November of 2019.  

Conclusion Meeting of COP24 plenary ©UNFCC, United Nations Climate Change,

As always there were crises along the way, most notably the refusal of a group of oil producing countries (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the USA) to “welcome” a report the COP had requested from the UN’s Climate Science Branch of the impacts of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. In a classic UN compromise, the final conclusions did not “welcome” the report but did welcome its “timely completion” and “invited” countries to make use of the report in subsequent discussions.

So, what was agreed, and what was not?

The stated aim of the COP was to complete the ‘Paris Rulebook’, the detailed set of guidelines that forms the operating manual for countries looking to comply with the Paris agreement. This was mostly agreed – a new international climate regime will enter into force in 2024 under which countries will need to report their emissions, and the progress they have made in cutting them, every two years.

Negotiators however were unable to agree a set of rules governing the use of carbon markets aimed to replace the Kyoto Protocol’s “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM), especially those aiming to prevent ‘double counting’ of emission reductions. In the end, finalisation of the whole section of the text (known as “article 6”) was deferred to COP25.  This was widely regarded as disappointing by both Environmental Campaigners and advocates for carbon markets.

Climate Ambition (increasing emission reduction targets) was also under discussion, and at the end of the COP, campaigners claimed that no clear commitment to enhanced national emission reduction targets was reached despite expectations that Katowice would deliver step-change.

Under the Polish presidency, the ‘just transition’ of communities reliant on fossil fuels received considerable attention. In the end, 50 countries (of nearly 200 present) signed the ‘Silesia Declaration’. The declaration emphasised the need for emission-reducing policies to ensure “a just transition of the workforce” that creates “decent work and quality jobs”.    The document was later ‘noted’ in the final COP text.

With regard to who pays for what, and how developing countries can be supported financially, the COP document sets out a way for countries to increase their current commitment to mobilise $100 billion every year by 2020.

As always, the COP was an interesting experience, it was great to meet and talk to worldsteel members from around the globe, and speak at and participate in a variety of interesting side events and discussions.

A number of events focused on ‘hard to decarbonise’ sectors like steel, cement and chemicals and we can probably expect further discussions of the industrial sector as discussions progress towards COP25.