The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as COP24, was held in Katowice, Poland, in mid-December 2018. A key result was the Katowice Rulebook, implementing the Paris Agreement and creating a framework for countries to toughen greenhouse gas reduction targets and increase transparency in disclosing emissions.
“We have been working on this package for three years. When we have to deal with positions of almost 200 Parties, it is not easy to find an agreement concerning a multi-aspect and technical deal. Under these circumstances, each step forward was a great achievement. And I thank you for that. We can be proud of ourselves.” said COP24 President Micha Kurtyka during the event’s conclusion.
He added, “Our common efforts didn’t consist solely of producing texts or defending national interests. We were conscious of our responsibility to people and commitment for the fate of Earth, which is our home and the home of future generations who will come after us.”
The U.S. sent delegation to the summit as part of almost 30,000 total participants from almost 200 countries – even though the current administration has previously announced pulling out of the Paris Agreement. While that is currently the official stance of the U.S. government, the U.S. still remains in the agreement because the process to leave the accord takes four years.
Given this official stance, the U.S. delegation, led by State Department principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Judith Garber, held a lesser role in COP24 negotiations than would otherwise be the case if the U.S. were fully behind the 2015 accord.
“A positive outcome from COP24’s Katowice Rulebook is it requires both developed and developing countries to follow similar guidelines, a stipulation that might entice the U.S. to return to the Paris Agreement” Andrew Light, professor of public policy and atmospheric sciences at George Mason University and an Obama administration climate negotiator in Paris, told USA Today. Light added that transparency and rules on record keeping need to be flexible to help poorer countries comply – but the key is having every nation operate under the same rulebook.
“We wanted an agreement that would make it easy for the U.S. to get back in,” he said. “This is a deal that we would want to be part of, a deal where China, India, and other big, developing countries don’t have different rules from the U.S. It makes all the countries play by the same rules.”
In the same USA Today report, Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Penn State, also mentioned the transparency requirements as an important outcome. He suggested that the U.S. and China reaching agreements with the rest of the world can “help to create an atmosphere of good faith” and will hopefully lead to higher emission reduction commitments next year.
Climate change is an issue that requires international action, its a threat with global consequences that transcends all borders. In this light, COP24 should be considered a success. The summit built on the Paris Agreement from 2015 and outlined an equitable process for each nation to set greenhouse gas reduction targets and openly report emissions. And although the U.S. is currently on the path to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the new guidelines offer a potential path back into the accord in 2020 regardless of the political climate in Washington.