Paris Agreement: Delivering Better Rules, Higher Ambition

Good news from Katowice, Poland: The community of nations today agreed to key elements of a rulebook to guide their individual efforts to combat dangerous climate change over the next decade. And they set in motion the clear direction for countries to strengthen their national targets by 2020.

That’s a major step forward. It builds on the historic Paris Agreement of 2015, in which all major countries committed to curb their carbon pollution and outlined a set of rules for the global system over the coming years.

As I said in my final statement:

“They did it: The rules adopted at COP24 are sound, and their transparency will enable us to know whether countries are on track to meet their targets under the Paris agreement. But that’s not enough. Climate change is here and getting worse faster than expected, and that’s why the world needs to move from slow-walking climate action to sprinting.

“From national capitals to boardrooms to local communities, everyone must do much more to deeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the shift to clean energy—before it’s too late.”

COP24 Plenary: Katowice, Poland

At the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland (see here), countries adopted detailed decisions that will implement the Paris rulebook and sent a clear signal that countries have to strengthen their national action now. Here is a summary of the key aspects. 

Adopting a robust rulebook to implement the Paris Agreement

One of the key milestones for COP24 was to take the “law” of the Paris Agreement (i.e., the key parameters) and turn it into actionable “regulations” that will ensure countries are working under a clear set of rules. The rules are critical to ensure that countries are: delivering on their commitments, not using tricks to show something different than reality, and living up to both the spirit and the letter of the law. Countries agreed to a robust set of rules around:

Single Transparency and Accountability System (see here for more details on these provisions). Over the coming years we need to know if countries are on track towards their commitments and if there are “loopholes” that make it look like emissions are going down while the atmosphere is providing a different conclusion. The Paris rulebook now includes a requirement for countries to:

  • Report early and often, following approved guidelines. No later than 2024, countries will be required to provide their new detailed report and then to present reports every two years. Leadership countries should present their first report much sooner—by 2020. These reports will have to follow a set of agreed guidelines that set forward detailed requirements to ensure that the reports are credible and accurate.
  • Detail national emissions inventories that: use the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines, report on the key categories of emissions, document all key greenhouse gases, and present the most recent data. These inventories will help provide up-to-date national data to give a clear picture of actual emissions.
  • Present new data to track progress against a country’s target. Combined with the national inventories, which provide up-to-date actual emissions, countries are required to measure progress against key indicators for meeting their national targets (i.e., CO2 emissions against a national CO2 target) and to project detailed emissions trends for where their emissions are likely headed. These tools will create new data points to evaluate whether countries are on-track for delivering their emissions targets under the Paris Agreement. There will be lots of quantitative data to judge whether a country is delivering on their commitments.
  • Be evaluated by technical experts and a multilateral assessment. The biennial reports will be subject to detailed reviews by independent experts (including in-country reviews). Countries will be required to participate in a public multilateral assessment of their progress where other countries can ask detailed questions and receive specific responses.

Climate Finance to Support Developing Countries (see here for more details on these provisions). On climate finance, countries reaffirmed the urgent need to scale up climate finance, including from the private sector, and to increase finance for adaptation and to align financial flows with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. At COP24 countries agreed to:

  • A finance rulebook where climate finance reports are to be completed every two years, with developed countries and others willing to do so reporting on the public financial resources already provided to developing countries and with estimates of future financing that will be provided. The finance that is counted will include grants, loans, guarantees and other financial instruments.
  • A climate finance target for 2025 that starts at $100 billion a year as a floor. Countries decided to leave any decisions about raising the level of climate finance to a later decision date. Developing countries will report on their financing needs for implementing their NDCs.

Clear Signals that countries need to urgently strengthen their actions

A slew of recent reports have demonstrated that the world is not on track to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement to hold global warming to 2°C and strive for 1.5°C. Recognizing this gap, countries need to urgently revise their national climate targets in line with the latest science and present their new targets to the international community for scrutiny. COP24 sent a clear signal that going forward, countries must (see here for more on this):

  • Initiate and complete an inclusive national process to step up the ambition of their climate target. Starting immediately after COP24, countries must go home and begin (or finalize if they have already started) a national process that includes participation from civil society, states, provinces, cities, and business to strengthen their national climate target. A number of leading countries have already started or announced they will conduct such a process, and all major emitters must follow suit.
  • Commit to a more ambitious climate target at the UN Secretary General’s climate summit. Leadership countries should come to the special summit convened by the UN Secretary General in September 2019 and announce their more ambitious climate target to the global community. These revised targets need to show that countries are serious about delivering on the Paris Agreement targets.

Sprinting from Poland to Greater Climate Action

The Paris Agreement included key strengthened measures to ensure that countries meet their commitments. The detailed rulebook adopted in Poland takes those strengthened measures and gives them life. It spells out the common rules, expectations, and procedures to help us track country-level emissions and progress towards targets. It will add a new and more powerful set of tools to help ensure that countries are living up to their commitments so that everyone can see clearly if the atmosphere is seeing the same thing as the national reports.

Countries need to leave Poland and pick up the pace towards greater climate action!

About the Authors

Jake Schmidt

Managing Director, International program

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