Top five moments from the COP24 climate conference
Digital Writer/Climate Change Reporter
Sunday, December 16, 2018, 12:29 PM - World leaders gathered in Katowice, Poland to discuss their actions taken to combat climate change and new commitments at the most recent global conference. While the conference concluded with some notable achievements, many commitments still remain unresolved.
The 24th sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) wrapped up after two weeks of meetings on December 14th. Discussions centered around successfully implementing rules that can be followed by every country to meet the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Disagreements over international trade and carbon credits, balancing concerns of small island nations and oil-exporting nations, and agreeing on a "rulebook" that will preventing carbon emissions from passing critical levels were topics that were met with varying levels of enthusiasm.
Since 2015 the actions that have been taken to meet targets outlined by the Paris Agreement have significantly lacked, and a recent UN report indicates that we have just 12 years before global warming can be stabilized at a rise of 1.5 degree Celsius, beyond which each 0.5 degree rise would result extreme natural disasters, heat waves, and malnutrition for hundreds of millions people across the world. Read below for the most notable moments of the conference, where most of the world's international leaders fought for a better future.
SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S OPENING SPEECH
The legendary naturalist and broadcaster's opening speech at the conference was on behalf of the UN campaign called the "People's Seat," which represents the voice and concerns of the world's population. The dire warning emphasizes the responsibilities that world leaders have as they act as decision-makers for billions of people. See his moving, strongly worded speech in the video above.
Of the nearly 200 countries (and the European Union) that attended the conference, only four blocked the full endorsement of the UN climate report, which outlines the urgent action that is needed to prevent global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report warns that climate change is worsening extreme weather events and risks a catastrophic loss of biodiversity and a global hunger crisis, however Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United States rejected these findings.
These four countries are among the largest oil-producing nations in the world and have continuously denied climate science, which was pointed out by the Foreign Minister representing small island nation of Vanuatu. This country is one of the many island nations that could disappear because of sea level rise, and has emphasized that they are an innocent victim who have not contributed to climate change, but risks being wiped out because of the actions of other nations. The Paris Agreement requires wealthy countries to provide developing nations with $100 billion each year in climate financing by 2020, however many countries have either not received sufficient funds or feel that the funds are not adequate to combat the challenges they are facing.
Port Vila on Éfaté Island, Vanuatu. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
CARBON CREDITS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE ARGUMENTS
Tense disagreements became heated when a conclusion could not be reached about how carbon credits should be awarded, and how this would impact international trade agreements. Carbon credits would be awarded to countries if they make specific reductions in the amount of carbon they emit, or if they invest in methods to capture carbon, such as protecting forests. A decision about the wording of the carbon credit rules raised concern that some countries could find loopholes and compromise the integrity of the system, so the issue has been put off for now and will be revisited next year.
AGREEMENT ON THE RULEBOOK
Despite the disagreements, an agreement was reached on the set of rules that would help the world meet the Paris agreement targets. This rulebook is a "robust" set of guidelines that implement actions to satisfy the 2015 Paris Agreement, and includes a detailed transparency framework that promotes trust among the nations, a uniform method to count and monitor greenhouse gas emissions, and a strategy to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate actions and progress by 2023. The private sector also participated in the conference discussions with two new initiatives - the Sports for Climate Action Framework and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. These initiatives intend to align business practices with the goals of the Paris Agreement by improving energy use at production facilities, minimizing waste, and promoting renewable energy options for transport and manufacturing.
This year notable efforts from younger generations have emphasized the urgency of the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old activist from Sweden, spent three weeks sitting in front of parliament during school hours and has called for a global school walkout to raise awareness for the dire impacts that climate change will have on future generations. Thunberg spoke at the conference (see video below) on behalf of Climate Justine Now, and is encouraging people of all ages to take actions to address climate change and reduce it's impacts so Earth is habitable for future generations to come.