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The 24th Katowice UN Climate Conference: Steps Forward for Implementation

Thursday, 24 January 2019
The 24th Katowice Climate Change Conference was convened from 2 to 15 December 2018 in Poland and included the three governing bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement. The Katowice Climate Change Conference brought together over 22,000 participants, including government officials, representatives from UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, and media.

Despite the long-standing disagreements among countries, COP 24 adopted the “Katowice Climate Package” on Saturday, 15th December and put in place a set of implementation guidelines that were considered by many to be sufficiently robust. The “Katowice Climate Package” is designed to operationalize the climate change regime contained in the Paris Agreement. 

After three years of difficult negotiations, parties had two final weeks to turn the Paris Agreement’s broad commitments into the detailed technical guidance (“rulebook”) needed to measure mitigation, account for finance, and ensure transparency. The “rulebook”, mandated in 2015 to be finalised by the end of COP24, is the detailed “operating manual” needed for the Paris Agreement to enter force in 2020. It covers a multitude of questions, such as how countries should report their greenhouse gas emissions or contributions to climate finance, as well as what rules should apply to voluntary market mechanisms, such as carbon trading.

Despite an extra negotiating session in Bangkok in September 2018, delegates arrived in Katowice with fundamental differences yet to be resolved in a 236-page text, which were both long-standing––rooted in historical debates about responsibility and leadership––and specifically to differing interpretations of the Paris Agreement itself. The primary sticking point was differentiation. Developing countries have long argued that they should be granted flexibility in their mitigation efforts, while developed countries have sought common rules that will hold all, especially emerging economies, equally accountable.
The ministerial negotiations during the second week were crucial for unlocking the agreement on the two most contentious issues: differentiation and finance. In the final agreement, more uniform and mitigation-centric NDC guidance, which developed countries see as central to the Agreement, was balanced with improved processes for financial support for developing countries. Significant for developing countries was the final decision on the Adaptation Fund, as many of these countries consider adaptation finance a top priority. The Adaptation Fund, which currently serves the Kyoto Protocol, will now exclusively serve the Paris Agreement once the share of proceeds from the Paris Agreement offsetting mechanism becomes available. The Fund will also be financed by voluntary public and private sources.
In many areas of the “rulebook”, including transparency, the guidelines also give the most vulnerable countries, added flexibility in terms of how and when they apply the guidance.
It was also crucial that the guidance emerging from Katowice enabled the Paris Agreement to become the dynamic ambition mechanism it was intended to be, with comprehensive rules for five-year cycles for submitting national plans, or NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), and reviewing their implementation, on the one hand, and a robust system for taking stock of collective progress, on the other.

Α further dimension of the rulebook’s contribution to dynamism is how it mandates adjustments to the rules over time. Many sections of the Katowice package set timeframes for review and possible revision of the guidance. One such example is the guidance on information and accounting related to mitigation, which is mandated to happen in 2028.

Finally, one of the most important accomplishments of the Katowice outcome is that parties were able to agree to most elements of the Paris Agreement Work Programme. In doing so they avoided weakening external perceptions of countries’ determination to implement the Agreement and damaging the credibility of the UNFCCC process. The “1,000 little steps countries took together” to reach agreement on the rulebook adopted in Katowice will undoubtedly help “move us one step further to realizing the ambition enshrined in the Paris Agreement,” as noted by COP 24 President Michal Kurtyka.

Source: IISD Reporting Services, UN


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