Fiona HarveySun 16 Dec 2018 11.56 GMT
Delegates agree ‘rulebook’ for Paris goals, but key questions have been ignored or put off
They lacked the drama, excitement and eventual breakthrough that marked the Paris agreement of 2015, but this year’s UN climate talks produced important steps forward in putting the landmark accord into practice.
After last-minute wrangling over wording, late on Saturday night delegates in Poland finally agreed a text that contains most of the “rulebook” needed to guide countries’ implementation of the Paris goals.
These include complex technical issues such as how countries should measure and report on their greenhouse gas emissions, and account for progress on meeting their commitments on curbing carbon, with an agreement to work on setting new targets for financial assistance to poor countries. Resolving these should mean countries can move ahead with meeting their targets.
“This is a good agreement,” the European commissioner Miguel Cañete told the Guardian. “We have more to do but we can move forward now.”
Nicholas Stern, author of the seminal review of the economics of climate change, said: “This has been another summit of tough negotiations, but it has ultimately succeeded in its crucial primary task of agreeing the so-called rulebook for the Paris agreement.”
One important issue that could not be resolved was over carbon markets, and how countries can gain credits for their efforts to cut emissions and their carbon sinks, such as forests, which absorb carbon dioxide. After Brazil, which hopes to benefit from its huge rainforest cover, insisted on wording that critics said would allow for double counting of credits and undermine the integrity of the system, this issue was postponed until next year.
While the conference broadly succeeded within its narrow technical remit, however, key questions on tackling climate change were ignored or put off. Foremost among these is the inadequacy of countries’ current national targets for curbing greenhouse gases. With current targets, the world is likely to face 3C or more of warming, which scientists warn would bring disaster.