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Climate Policy Environment 4 December, 2018 10:00 am   
Editorial staff

COP24 is a test of reliability of the climate agreement (INTERVIEW)

What are the negotiations of the climate summit about? What decision can be expected? Says Lidia Wojtal, an expert on climate policy and ex-negotiator in the team of the Polish delegation, currently an independent consultant.

BiznesAlert.pl: Why will the success of COP24 be measured in binding commitments of individual states?

Lidia Wojtal: The agreement of Paris laid down the basic principles of environmental protection against climate change. It was a breakthrough, but it did not specify who, how and when to act. This will happen in Katowice, but it is not about how much one will reduce. The so-called implementation rules are technical, but only thanks to them all countries will be able to credibly settle their goals: reduction, adaptation, financial.

Is it possible to say that the climate agreement was declarative?

Yes. On the other hand, from the point of view of the evolution of global politics, it was a breakthrough, because all the states declared that they would join the joint effort, and then in a short time they ratified the Agreement. In Katowice, we will confront it with reality. It will turn out that the individual countries are de facto ready. It depends only on the countries how much effort they take to the global level. Each of them independently prepares a national action plan every 5 years, they are called Nationally Determined Contributions – NDCs.

Interest groups will talk about this, beyond the traditional division into the rich north and the poor south. How to define them?

In 1992, less than forty countries took on the greatest burden of responsibility, acknowledging that climate change is due to greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities. In 2007, the idea of ​​a global agreement appeared, because the emission of countries such as China and India began to grow, which at that time were not obliged to reduce their emissions. The Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 concluded that climate protection would not be effective without the commitment of developing countries, but it was not successful. It was the first and so far the most spectacular example of the fact that not all summits must succeed.

Climate policy combines and divides differently than international relations. What are the chances for accepting binding commitments towards a skeptical US and Russian attitude, or differences of opinion among developing countries, such as island states or a group with China and India?

All countries are aware that the adoption of implementation rules in Katowice is a test for the credibility of not only the process of global negotiations, but also of themselves. By ratifying the Paris Agreement, they agreed to accept the commitments, which should now be clarified.

In a purely economic dimension, it is possible to pay attention to the fact that many developing countries receive funds for the implementation of climate policy, which means also enable development. One of the objectives of the Paris Agreement is to direct financial flows in such a way as to support the implementation of pro-climate policies. Failure to agree how to operate this new system may result in the suspension of further financial support.

In addition, climate policy is a topic present at all major global forums, and the positive commitment to it gives you the opportunity to present yourself as a responsible international partner. I believe that despite difficult negotiating matter and extremely heavy negotiations, most negotiators are determined to leave Katowice with a sense of international success.

How to understand the password COP24 in this context: changing together?

The climate and the world are changing and we all have to act together to stop climate change. All countries must do it, only such action makes sense. Each of the states that have ratified the Paris Agreement are to gradually implement changes through the revision of subsequent climate plans every five years. The European Union has also already presented its action plan by 2030, which covers all Member States.

What to expect from the EU position at the summit?

The EU position will be based mainly on the negotiating mandate adopted by the ministers at the Environment Council on 9 October this year. It addresses many issues, including the possibility of increasing the EU’s already announced reduction target (at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990). In order for this to happen, it is first necessary to assess the necessary further and joint efforts to achieve the aim of the Agreement, for example how effectively current commitments inhibit the increase in the average temperature of the Earth. Such a report is prepared by the Secretariat of the UNFCCC Convention. Secondly, it is also necessary to assess to what extent all countries have actually become involved or how they intend to do so in the future – here the record is not sharp. Certainly, however, such an assessment will not be easy and I doubt that its resolution would be possible in Katowice.

What will be the role of the summit’s findings in formulating the EU’s climate policy in 2019, the period of political change in Europe?

The Katowice summit should confirm that the direction of changes and transformation of economies, which was defined at the summit in Paris, remains valid and respected by those states that have ratified the Paris Agreement (currently 184 pages). The huge interest of non-government actors in what will happen in Katowice indicates that climate policy is not just a matter of governments.

Talanoa Dialogue finalized at COP24 is considered the precursor of five-year, global cycles of evaluation of activities for climate protection. This process over time should lead to increased ambition of all parties to the agreement. Already in 2023, based on the findings adopted in Katowice, the first Global Review will be launched, the results of which, like the results of Talanoa Dialogue, are to encourage all parties, but also non-governmental actors to prepare and submit ambitious goals for the next 5 years. The next such review will take place in 2028, then in 2033, etc. COP24 will have a significant impact on how this process will look and how effective it will be.

What role at the COP24 summit can a civil society play that does not always understand the process of climate negotiations?

Climates from year to year attract more and more participants. These are not new state officials, but more observers who want to look at the negotiations, teach where the global climate and energy policy is going and possibly put pressure on the negotiators. They can organize events, invite guests, and demonstrate. At the climate summit, the daily fossil prize for the countries that get it for showing the smallest ambition is also awarded daily.

Poland has already received several such prizes. Will it get one this year?

We shall see (laughs).

Interview conducted by Wojciech Jakóbik