The first thing to say about the compromise struck at climate talks in Poland at the weekend is that it came as a relief. Ever since President Trump’s announcement in 2017 that the US would withdraw from the Paris agreement, the question has been whether the UN process could continue to work. Much like the communique that came out of the recent G20, the agreement on a set of rules to implement promises made in Paris shows that while multilateralism has been damaged, it is not dead. Flawed and inadequate though it is, the process that has developed since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in Rio in 1992 is still the best hope we have of staving off the most terrifying impacts of global warming.
The sticking point of carbon credits, with new demands from Brazil regarding the treatment of forests, was pushed back to next year. But the agreement on how governments will measure and report on emissions cuts is important. The dynamic that previously pitted developing against developed countries has significantly shifted.
Minds will now turn to the next deadline: 2020, when countries must demonstrate that they have met old targets and set new, much tougher ones. This round of talks, which the UK aims to host, is even more crucial following recent warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that current goals are nowhere near ambitious enough. While these set the planet on a course towards a 3C rise in temperatures, scientists believe even 1.5C would bring serious consequences. We have around 12 years in which to bring an unstable situation under control. [Continue reading…]