Nations reach agreement on climate accord rules at COP24

Michal Kurtyka COP24 (Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press)

After two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries agreed Saturday on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming. Fierce disagreements on two other climate issues were kicked down the road for a year to help bridge a chasm of opinions on the best solutions.

The deal agreed upon at the UN’s COP24 climate talks in the Polish city of Katowice enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

But to the frustration of environmental activists and some countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators delayed decisions on two key issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them.

“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the talks.

He said while each individual country would likely find some parts of the agreement it didn’t like, efforts had been made to balance the interests of all parties.

Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said in a statement on Saturday that the agreement shows that “multilateralism works to tackle a clear global problem — climate change.”

She was critical over the lack of specific commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions, saying there were “precious few specifics on how individual governments plan to respond to the devastating climate chaos of 2018 and deliver the climate action that science demands.”

The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year.

And a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded that while it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 C by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.

The final text at the UN talks omits a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and merely welcomes the “timely completion” of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.

Last-minute snags forced negotiators in Katowice to go into extra time, after Friday’s scheduled end of the conference had passed without a deal.

One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming.

But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent.