The adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 was a historic milestone. It set globally agreed goals for keeping Earth’s temperatures to “safe” levels and increasing resilience to the increasingly evident impacts of climate change.
However, agreeing on high-level goals alone isn’t enough to address a global problem this complex.
For the past several years, countries have been working on the rules and guidance to how to implement this monumental agreement. At the UN climate negotiations (known as COP 24), which just came to a close in Katowice, Poland, countries adopted the first installment of the “Paris Rulebook.”
You may have heard that last week the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait refused to “welcome” an expert report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on necessary steps to keep average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius — beyond which global warming will cause widespread climate breakdown. While it may seem semantical, “welcoming” the report — rather than blocking its endorsement, as the four countries did — would send a signal for how seriously the global community takes the risk of climate change.
“The science is clear — to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change, we need to act fast,” remarked Shyla Raghav, climate change lead, in response. In the final outcome, countries “welcome[d] the timely completion of” the report.
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Fortunately, the four nations’ dissent didn’t slow down deliberations on the Paris Rulebook. Here are the three main takeaways from the climate talks:
- Agreed guidance for future national climate action: At COP 24, countries adopted guidance for preparing future national climate goals for both mitigation (preventing further climate-warming carbon emissions) and adaptation (adjusting to existing climate change). As part of the guidance, countries are encouraged to incorporate all sectors in their national targets, which includes the protection, sustainable management and restoration of forests and natural ecosystems. By incorporating nature in their national targets, countries can harness the potential of nature to deliver at least 30 percent of the mitigation needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
- Advancing inclusive participation of indigenous peoples: At COP 24, a major agreement was reached on how to integrate Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples (LCIP) and their traditional knowledge into climate decisions through an LCIP Platform. In an unprecedented move, representatives for indigenous groups were given equal status with country representatives to negotiate this agreement. This policy outcome opens an opportunity for increasing climate ambition, strengthening LCIP leadership, integrating natural climate solutions into national climate commitments, and building bridges between state actors (that is, national governments) and non-state actors in climate action.
- Progress on guidance for future emissions trading: Under the Paris Agreement, countries can trade emission reductions to help meet their national goals, known as “transfers”. These market-based approaches can also drive needed finance to scale up mitigation actions, including nature-based solutions. At COP 24, countries negotiated many of the technical details for trading emissions reductions; however, they were not able to agree on a final package. Brazil, in particular, was responsible for deferring an outcome on this topic, as they were pushing for rules that would allow them to double count emission reductions. Countries will continue work on this topic over the next year. In finalizing the guidance, it is essential that emissions trading encourages climate action from all sectors and ensures that the emission reductions counted represent what actually occurs.
Countries will continue negotiations over the next year to fully implement the Paris Agreement.
Maggie Comstock is senior director of climate policy for Conservation International.
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