UN PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT: 80% OF THE RULES ARE ADDED TO THE PRINCIPLES
At the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which ended in Katowice, Poland, almost all the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement concluded in 2015 were adopted. The rules define how countries should report on measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, how to report on climate change adaptation actions, how to report on the allocation and use of funds. An action plan was adopted to summarize the global results of all actions on emissions, adaptation and financing in 2023 and then in 2028. Actions of the Compliance Committee designed to assist countries in meeting their national goals were laid out in detail.
“The rules mainly determine the order and structure of reporting, actions to monitor the global situation, but the countries’ actions are not prescribed by the rules in any way. The Paris Agreement decisions are based on voluntary actions determined by national goals that countries take on their own, and not as part of the agreement,” commented Alexey Kokorin, conference attendee, Director of the Climate and Energy Program of WWF Russia. "The rules do not go beyond the Paris Agreement principles, therefore they do not deal with such issues as country emission allowances and international payments for them, etc. All these critical issues should be solved at the national level; however, the rules should regulate international projects."
An important element of the Paris Agreement is the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM), which implies joint actions of countries to reduce GHG emissions, both market and non-market. The Conference attendees worked intensely on the guidelines for bilateral trade in GHG emission reduction units; on the rules, conditions and procedures for the implementation of joint projects; on the working program for the development of non-market cooperation. However, they failed to complete the work because of the many technical difficulties encountered; in particular, the countries did not agree on the procedure for “transferring” projects of the Kyoto Protocol to the SDM. The SDM rules will be elaborated in detail in 2019, which will allow, as previously planned, to start the vigorous international activity in 2020–2021.
“The implementation of projects seems to be the most valuable for Russia; their status as actions under the Paris Agreement will ensure transparency, and thus reduce risks and make projects much more attractive for investors,” says Alexey Kokorin. “The price and the number of generated emission reduction units are subordinate issues, there are no requirements for them in the rules, and there are no restrictions that would prevent the implementation of various projects in Russia, including forest projects. However, for this to happen, Russia must join the 184 countries that have ratified the agreement.”
Finance (assisting the most fragile and weaker countries) is a key element of the Paris Agreement. The wealthier donor countries have committed to render this assistance, although the agreement does not provide for specific amounts. Russia is not a donor economy but a voluntary donor who provides assistance whenever possible. It is finance that accounts for most of the conflict situations. The United States withdrew from the Agreement because financially it does not treat equally the USA and China, their main global competitor. Turkey faced specific financial problems and has not yet ratified the Agreement. In Katowice, the weaker and most fragile countries insisted on the allocation of a special “window” to compensate for their losses and damage from measures to which it is no longer possible to adapt, which did not work for the developed countries and led to an intense clash of interests. In the long run, no separate “window” was created, and the special needs of the most fragile countries will be taken into account when summing up the global activity in 2023.
“In Katowice, Japan and European countries have shown that, contrary to the US position, they will continue large-scale financing of the Green Climate Fund. Germany and Japan announced the allocation of $1.5 billion each for 4 years, they were joined by Norway, France, Finland, which already guarantees its active work in 2020–2023. Russia also announced the allocation of money to the Fund and in support of the activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” adds Alexey Kokorin.
Alongside drawing up the set of rules, ideas were exchanged on the issue of global GHG efforts (“Talanoa Dialogue”). The most fragile countries, especially small island states, as well as environmental organizations were disappointed with the actual stagnation of the process of enhancing Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of the advanced countries. The debate was particularly tense in light of the release of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, illustrating how relatively small the damage from climate change would be if it were possible to limit the increase in the global average temperature of the near-surface air layer to 1.5°C (measuring relative to mid-to-late 19 century). Presently, the 1°C mark has already been passed, and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of the countries for the period up to 2030 generally lead the world to increasing the temperature by 3°C (by the end of the 21st century). The report makes it clear that such a “trifle” as every 0.50°C of global temperature is very important. It is essential whether the anthropogenic impact on the Earth’s climate will stop at 3 or 2.5°C, 2.5 or 2°C, since each "small step" means a much smaller number and strength of dangerous phenomena like droughts and floods, heat waves and storm winds, lower sea level rise, lower sea acidity, etc.
A special touch was added to the conference by holding it in the coal capital of Poland. Negotiations were accompanied by lots of public events, and on December 8, a march was held in the city, the main slogans being a radical reduction of GHG emissions and curtailing the utilization of coal globally. Environmental organizations were disappointed that the Paris Agreement does not prohibit coal. Indeed, this agreement is not intended in principle to prohibit or allow anything concrete, but it fully reflects the global low-carbon trend of competitive economic development. No country can stay out of this trend, even as strong as the USA, which has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement for financial reasons. In global practice, increasingly more coal projects fail to find investment, and this does not depend on whether the project is located in the country that ratified the Paris Agreement or not.
The Conference results show that the Paris Agreement is developing successfully, although many actions are too slow, insufficient for the weaker and most fragile countries, especially the island states, which are threatened with flooding.
“We should not overestimate the official results of the Conference, for it was not planned as an epoch-making one; however, it provided the Paris Agreement with a number of regulations,” comments Alexey Kokorin. "But should neither underestimate its informal results, the statements made at the Conference, the plans submitted by major companies and financial institutions."
The World Bank announced that it will allocate 200 billion US dollars for climate purposes over the next 5 years. More importantly, the Bank announced the start of large-scale financing of climate change adaptation projects, including grant-making. The informal events held in Katowice involving the world's top financial institutions and major companies showed that, slowly but steadily, the financial flows in the world are being “synchronized” with the Paris Agreement, adjusted to low-carbon development and climate risks, bring their operations in line with the principles and format of this Agreement.
WWF Russia will prepare a brief overview of the Conference results, which will be posted in the Documents section at https://wwf.ru/what-we-do/climate-and-energy/