This article is written by Sarah Siemers.
This year’s climate conference in Poland, also known as COP24, was again of great importance. The direction for the further course of global change was meant to be set there and the task was to draw up a set of rules to implement the Paris Agreement.
In advance, a special report was published by the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which summarizes the scientific findings on climate change. This report clearly illustrates that a half degree difference between global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C (compared to the beginning of the industrial revolution) marks a significant impact regarding the resulting hazards. If there is no strengthening in ambition to curve down the CO2 emissions, we could observe a 1.5°C warming with catastrophic consequences in about 12 years already. The scientific community has never sent a clearer signal before and hopes were high that this report would have a positive impact on the negotiations.
However, a dispute arose at COP as to whether the parties would « welcome » the latest findings of the IPCC report or simply « note” it in the rulebook. The question is why should states not recognize this report? What seems like word picking is of diplomatic importance because the recognition of the report would imply that the fastest energy transition possible should be initiated on the basis of it. Nevertheless, states such as Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait deny the broad consensus of the world’s best climate scientists by refusing to « welcome » the IPCC report. Under the circumstances that among these states the largest oil exporters are represented, this is not very surprising at all. According to DeSmogBlog, at least 35 of the delegates from these countries worked for companies or organizations in the fossil fuel or mining industries and actively lobbied for these industries at COP24.
But other countries at the summit as well proved to be “the best in doing the worst”: to draw attention to these culprits, the Climate Action Network awarded them every evening with the « Fossil of the Day » and here you can read which countries have been the chosen ones.
After COP24 some participants rather preferred having no completion of the rulebook than having one that « has as many holes as a Swiss cheese », with the wish that the next conference in Chile would have produced a more ambitious result.
Nonetheless, besides the negotiations, there were fortunately many encouraging side events hosted by several interesting organizations, researchers and activists. They talked about their everyday lives struggling with climate change, presented promising solutions or reported their small and big successes. This gives reason to a hope that if there is a will there is a way and that if civil society is able to trigger committed actions of policymakers, positive change is possible! Because as Al Gore aptly put it into words in Katowice: « we do not have the luxury of feeling discouraged – too much is at stake!”
About the author: Sarah Siemers holds a Masters in Environment and Bio-Resources Management and is Advocacy Co-Director of Climates Austria.