Text by: Yvonne Chan/Climate and Energy Specialist of DEF

The “Paris Agreement Rulebook” is to be implemented and was assigned in the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which ended recently in December last year. The rulebook allowed for the realization of goal to “limit the global warming to 2 °C or 1.5 °C” and each nation’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). For this reason, COP24 was closely followed by the global climate community with the utmost attention since the 2015 COP21 Paris Climate Summit.

However, what were results of such a crucial conference? A summary of the assessments by the international media and environmental groups in the past two weeks seems only to amount to the term “average”.

Interference of oil-producing countries, 1.5 °C Special Report in precarious position
“Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C” released by IPCC last October clearly specified the difference between the rises of 1.5 °C and 2 °C in earth’s temperature. It has even estimated that the rise in earth’s average temperature would be likely to exceed 1.5 °C by 2030. There is no doubt that this momentous report has sounded the alarm in the negotiations “to urgently bolster the initiative for carbon reduction”, but not all the nations care for the warning.

Many environmental groups were disappointed in the final outcome of COP24, especially with the failure of assigning IPCC's 1.5 °C special report its deserved position in the rulebook.

  Four leading oil-producing countries: USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait unanimously insisted on “noting” rather than supportively “welcoming” the special report to weaken its position in the rulebook. After some compromise, conflict, and wrestling, the tone was set as “welcome the timely completion” without requiring the nations to refer to the scientific evidence in the execution of the “Paris Agreement”. This has made the global climate community worry that the implementation of the agreement will not take root and be settled.

The puzzle of the rulebook is missing a few pieces
Now take a look at the highly anticipated rulebook, which could be said to have been successfully released at the last hour. It defines a nation’s responsibility to deal with climate change and puts down each nation’s declared execution schedule and status in black and white. However, this seemingly comprehensive rulebook is still missing a few pieces of the puzzle.

The most important piece is none other than the carbon market, which is considered an effective mechanism to drive global collaboration. Brazil, led by “Trump of the Tropics” Jair Messias Bolsonaro, had insisted that the carbon rights obtained by the country can be traded and also factored into NDC. Of course it is difficult for other countries to agree to such a double calculation of carbon rights, and the proposal went nowhere in the end.

On the other hand, even though the rulebook was passed, the nations still lack the initiative for a higher level of climate action. Also, COP24 originally had a schedule to review each nation’s achievements from carbon reduction actions over the past three years since the “Paris Agreement” was passed. However, the countries spent most of their energy on debating the rulebook during this conference and appeared to lack interest in the NDC examination and reinforcement. With the exception of the 2050 “carbon neutral” target announced by the EU prior to the conference, almost all the other countries had nothing to show.

The results of COP24 in Poland clearly did not satisfy the environmental groups. Although some groups gave positive reviews, most of the important issues remain to be discussed in COP25 in Chile.

All in all, the negotiation results of COP24 were not satisfactory for the public. However, many critics consider that it was something to have produced the rulebook, especially under a “power vacuum”. Several indicator nations (UK, Germany, and France) who led the conference forward in the past conferences were unable to attend the negotiations this year due to their respective domestic affairs. Furthermore, looking back at the COP progress in history, this incomplete rulebook is probably the most comprehensive and most ambitious procedures and agreement to date.