COP 24: Limited progress, limited ambition at end of Week One in Katowice

Extremely tough to have a complete and robust, fair and ambitious rulebook within the stipulated time, Parties also need to revise their NDCs by 2020.
The 24th Conference of Parties is being held at Katowice in Poland. Credit: COP24/Twitter
The 24th Conference of Parties is being held at Katowice in Poland. Credit: COP24/Twitter

The first week of the twenty-fourth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ended with slow progress on all agenda items and disagreement on a number of issues. Parties have the mandate of completing the rule-book for implementation of Paris Agreement, which kicks off in 2020.

The agenda items relate to differentiation across rulebook, provision and review of financial sources, guidance on clarity on nationally determined contributions (NDCs), stock-take of collective progress of climate actions (Global Stocktake), reporting on climate action and support in the form of Enhanced Transparency framework, new market mechanisms, anchoring of loss and damage, finance on adaptation, technology and capacity building.

Even though there is a sense of urgency seen among various Parties to finish the rule-book, the wide disagreement on the form, modalities and procedures of the agenda items has disrupted the positive momentum set out by COP President Michał Kurtyka and other dignitaries in the opening ceremony of COP24.

The work of the three negotiating bodies: Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) have resulted in the creation of draft conclusions with a recognition that lot of work needs to be done across agenda items, while the COP Presidency had earlier set out the agenda of “bare minimum issues” to be taken forward for the Ministers to resolve.

This implies that the ministers in the coming week would require superior diplomatic capabilities and spirit of compromise to discuss landing zones and convergence areas for final outcomes to be adopted. The greater challenge is to create not only an outcome document but a rule-book that is robust and fair and sets in motion ambitious climate action from 2020 onwards. Till now, there has been little discussion on raising ambition and setting timelines for it.

Contested Issues

Finance: It is the decider for make-or-break outcomes of COP 24. Article 9.5 mandates developed countries to biennially communicate ex-ante information on the projected levels of public financial resources to developing countries.

Developed countries, including the United States, European Union, Norway and Canada opposed any review of the information, only encouraged discussions around when and where the information be made available and have instead pushed the developing countries for their information and review of contribution of finance.

Developed countries also refused to discuss process for setting a new collective goal on finance from a floor of $100 billion per year by 2025 (as under the Paris Agreement) offering to delay the discussion on this issue.

Equity and Differentiation: The Umbrella Group comprising the developed countries including the US have opposed bifurcated understanding of equity in developed and developing. This they have particularly opposed in the context of ex-ante provision of information related to NDCs. Developed countries have also pushed for mitigation, as a necessary scope of NDCs. In the issue of Global Stocktake (which under Paris Agreement talks of taking science and equity into consideration), while G-77 and China have proposed the indicator approach (indicators such as historical responsibility, carbon space) for operationalisation of equity, developed countries have opposed the process.’

Reporting on NDCs: The current set of NDCs are vastly heterogenous. There is need for clarity and guidance on standards to make the NDCs standardised for easier assessment and comparability. However agreeing on common time frames, baselines, scope of NDCs, technical duration of NDCs, are issues of disagreements.

Flexibility in transparency: While developed countries have pushed for flexibility (less stringent requirements) in reporting of climate action and support in relation to least developed countries and island states, developing countries including India and China have staunchly opposed categorisation within countries and have pushed for flexibility for all developing countries.

Adaptation and Loss and Damage: Developed countries have opposed provision of finance in implementation of adaptation communications while developing countries have sought parity of mitigation and adaptation finance.

Developing countries are fighting hard for inclusion of loss and damage as sources of input under the Global Stocktake process and also inclusion of it under transparency framework for reporting of action and support. It is necessary to anchor loss and damage in components of rulebook.

Pre-2020 actions: At the session on the technical part of the stocktake on the pre-2020 implementation and ambition, India, China, and Brazil expressed concerns over the pre-2020 ambition gap of developed countries, both in terms of emissions reductions needed and over the finance gap. EU while stressed on the need for good reporting practices for all countries for better review.

IPCC Special Report on 1.5 degree C: Even though Parties themselves decided on the need for a special report on global warming of 1.5 degree C and requested IPCC to come out with this report, how should the IPCC’s Report be reflected in the COP 24 outcome has emerged as another contested issue. In the first week, many countries stated they want to change ‘welcome’ the IPCC report instead of ‘noting’ it.’’

The work on other agenda items such as market mechanisms have been even slower owing to range of technical elements such as corresponding adjustments, share of proceeds, relation between mitigation outcomes and sustainable development mechanism (as described under Paris Agreement.

In the coming week, more of substantive discussions rather than conceptual propositions and reiteration of positions need to happen. Additionally, in the light of scientific evidence and the inadequacy of climate actions, COP 24 decision must also require Parties to update their NDCs by 2020. On a welcome note, Canada, Vietnam and Jamaica have pledged to increase climate ambition by 2020. Other countries must also follow suit.

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