The Katowice climate package brings minor progress, but COP 24 failed to deliver on the most fundamental issues such as raising ambition of national contributions, implementing human rights, and ensuring support for developing countries.
The Katowice Climate Package, a compilation of Paris Rulebook documents – without rules for carbon trading – was adopted at COP 24 along with other decisions and action points that bring minor progress in specific areas such as finance, gender, and indigenous peoples. But overall, COP 24 failed to deliver on the most fundamental issues such as raising ambition of national contributions, implementing human rights in the Paris Rulebook, and ensuring fair and reliable support for developing countries to assist them in their efforts to combat global warming and its effects.
This detailed analysis reports on what happened in the two weeks of negotiations, assesses what is in the Katowice Climate Package, unpacks other decisions and agenda items of COP 24, gives a summary of actions and events that happened on the sidelines of the official conference, describes the whole event from the perspective of the Polish hosts, and asks what's next.
High expectations for high ambitions
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, released 8 October by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body that assesses the science related to climate change, sounded a last minute alarm to save the world.
Its key messages are unwavering: limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C is feasible only if carbon emissions are reduced by half by 2030 – only 11 years from now – and reach “net zero” by 2050. Such radical emissions cuts will require massive transformations in the global energy and transport systems, and the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems.
So optimism was high for increased ambition – on emissions reductions by all countries and scaled-up finance for developing countries to implement those reductions – among the more than 22,000 participants at the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, a city in Poland’s coal-producing heartland, which began on 2 December, nearly three years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement.
An early – and dramatic – push-back on climate ambition
What should have been the routine adoption of a document under a subsidiary body (SBSTA – the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice), which compiled scientific studies published in 2018 – including the IPCC Special Report – transformed into high drama during a mid-session plenary on 8 December. The document merely “noted” the IPCC report but the Maldives, speaking for the 44 members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – among the countries most vulnerable to climate change – proposed to “welcome” the report. They were supported by nearly every nation in the world.
But not the United States. “As the United States stated at the IPCC plenary on October 6, acceptance of the report and approval of the Summary for Policy Makers by the IPCC does not imply endorsement of the specific findings or the underlying contents by the United States.” Kuwait, the Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia rapidly stood behind the US. Saudi Arabia and a few of its oil-exporting partners had also fought to water down the IPCC report’s conclusions at its session in October, even trying to eliminate all mentions of the Paris Agreement.
The plenary was abruptly suspended and, after more than an hour, compromise language to “welcome the effort of the IPCC experts” was roundly rejected. Under UN rules, with no consensus, the document was scrapped.
The COP final decision agreed one week later found compromise language which “Welcomes the timely completion” of the report and “Invites Parties to make use” of its information. But that stand-off set the tone for the remainder of the talks.