By the end of the COP24 delegates are expected to have formulated and adopted a “rulebook” for the Paris Agreement. It is seen as a central outcome of this year’s meeting. But, will it materialize and – most importantly – suffice?

Referring to the Paris Agreement, Poland’s State Secretary for the Environment Michal Kurtyka said at the opening session of the COP24 that “only by a miracle can we realise success”. Looking at the findings of the latest reports on climate change, you can only agree with him. See textbox. The need for a miracle is even more exigent in light of the geopolitical developments since the Paris agreement, with political winds that have shifted to being much less in favor of the climate; Trump wants to ramp up coal production, and the Brazilian President-elect Bolsonaro has refused to host the next year’s COP, which was otherwise planned to take place in Brazil.

Nonetheless, this year’s COP24 delegates are expected to have formulated and adopted a “rulebook” for the Paris Agreement, with the aim of transforming the ‘vision’ of limiting temperature increases to 1.5°C a reality. At present, most reports suggest a 4-5°C temperature increase, so this new manifesto must in fact be a rulebook for miracles.

The rulebook is supposed to provide the operational details of the Paris Agreement. In 2015 the “shell”, so to speak, was agreed on, now the interior design of the agreement has to be put in place. And if the parties succeed with this, it will set in stone the rules for how the further implementation of the agreement will proceed, thereby enforcing it considerably. This is why Secretary-General António Guterres in the opening session made clear that he regards this year’s COP to be the most important one since the Paris Agreement was agreed upon in 2015.

A Paris Agreement “Rulebook”

The parties will have to negotiate issues that were left unfinished in the Paris Agreement. This will have to happen in a way that will meet the ambitions and goals in the agreement, but also the expectations of all countries involved – it must balance being both effective and fair. It will also make sure that the timeframes for countries’ implementation periods are better aligned, as they currently differ considerably.

Moreover, the rulebook should provide guidelines for better reporting, to make sure that nations will report in detail how they will adapt to climate change and mobilize financial resources, as well as ensure more rigid methodologies for assessing progress. This will add considerable transparency to the whole process of implementing the Paris agreement, as well as ensuring all nations are on the same page.

This more granular approach to implementing the Paris Agreement will effectively lead to better practices and greater predictability, which is crucial for businesses and nations, and their investment strategies.

Dissonant realities

The initiatives of the rulebook are all very welcomed, even necessary. However, again it appears that the delegates are living in one reality, while the climate change is happening in another. It still seems that nation states are putting their own interests before the climate, but what they tend to forget is that these “interests” have no future on a planet with 4-5°C temperature increases.

Paris was a breakthrough, but evidently not as big a breakthrough as believed back then. Will the real breakthrough come now with the guidelines for the actual implementation of the bold Paris visions?

Probably not. But one thing is sure, we really do need “miracles” right now.

Read more about the Paris Rulebook


Box: The five alarming reports that the COP24 must address

Emissions Gap Report 2018 (UNEP)
We thought we were on track, but this report proved us wrong. Completely wrong. In fact, the gap between emissions and reductions is growing more than ever. We need to halve our emissions by 2030 to avoid disastrous scenarios, according to the leading scientists behind this damning report.

1.5 Degrees Report (IPCC)
While COP24 is taking place, this report – published in October 2018 – showed that we are currently gambling with the planet’s liveability. Moreover, we are left with less time than expected. Massive changes in lifestyle, energy and transport systems are urgently needed and we need to start acting now.

State of the Climate Report 2018 (WMO)
Which were the four hottest years since 1874, when we started record global temperatures? The last four years! This is the stocktaking of this report by the World Meteorological Organization. And it will probably continue as the last 20 warmest years have all been within the past 22 years.

World Energy Outlook 2018 (IEA)
This report did reveal some great news – renewables are increasingly demanded across the globe and are now cheaper than ever. But is it fair to celebrate good news when this report also shows that fossil fuels are still our prefered energy source and will dominate the market for years to come?

Living Planet Report 2018 (WWF)
Biodiversity – why should you care? Because the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat all rely on biodiversity. It is the sum of knowledge learned by evolving species over millions of years. In that sense, humanity is currently burning “the library of life” as this report shows that the average animal populations have declined an astonishing 60% since 1970.

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