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Briefing 13.12.2018

Less and less controversy, but no breakthrough at COP24, World Bank: decarbonization in Poland will pay out

Shifting gears

Yesterday we reached the trickiest point for every COP negotiation. The presidency distributed new versions of the texts that had been upgraded overnight, thus marking the critical transition from the technical level to the political one. It was a declaration of the presidency’s intent: We want you to speed up. Now we will see whether it unsettles the parties or gives them a boost.

Progress has been patchy so far, to say the least. The texts are still full of holes, brackets and options. The rulebook that should be wrapped up in Katowice has been drafted, turned this way and that, shouted over and sweated upon for 3 years. People working on it have developed an unhealthy attachment to their proposals. Things got personal. After a tiring procedural session, it's easy to snap. We are all humans. In such a state it's easy to get entrenched and to believe that shade of one word could change your country’s entire fate. Some clearly haggle for sport, some fight for their jobs. And it's always very difficult to admit to a mistake or to give ground.

Switching gears should give delegations some needed perspective. Now ministers will be the ones wielding the scissors of compromise, trying to cut down the text further. They might decide some of the contested issues are simply not worth the fight. The process could jump forward. But it could always stop again, as it often does.

We are far from the last stretch. There are simply too many unresolved issues, including the crown problem of the IPCC report. Welcome it? Note its existence? For a major issue it might sound ridiculous but look at it this way: the report shows how catastrophic changes to the climate might be and that we can still stop them. The world powers could either recognise it and act or just politely shrug. Prepare for a feisty battle and book another night in Katowice.

Krzysztof Bolesta

Current events

Less and less controversy, but no breakthrough. According to Simon Evans from Carbon Brief, the number of contentious phrases in the negotiated agreement has decreased from 2,000 to 630 from the beginning of COP24. However, the key questions, such as funding for developing countries, transparency and climate change mitigation are still a clear dividing line among the negotiators. In addition, the ministers complain about the text’s complexity which hampers their work. This is due to the fact that technical fragments of the agreement were not concluded during the first week of the summit. According to the schedule, COP24 should finish tomorrow, but it is likely to be extended until Saturday.

Number of brackets remaining in the Paris Rulebook.

No revolutionary edits to the agreement proposed by the presidency. Our sources state that the edits proposed by the team of Michał Kurtyka do not significantly change the drafts prepared earlier by the negotiators. This is due to the presidency’s caution to avoid criticism of micromanagement. It could stir controversy and further extend the talks. While publishing the drafts, the presidency decided to move the talks to the ministerial level, hoping it could give the negotiations a necessary push – but it did not. PI Climate learned that the presidency did not use the device previously tested in Paris – non-political consultations with heads of delegations. This could enable the closure of a larger number of technical matters.

Contingency plan in the making. PI Climate sources suggest that the negotiators are bracing for a situation whereby the Rulebook is not fully agreed in Katowice. The negotiated drafts are very interrelated, which means no one item can be concluded without dealing with a number of other items first. Should there be no progress in the negotiations, the documents agreed upon during COP24 will include “bridges,” i.e. the fragments that will require further negotiation. This will likely happen next year and during COP25. The IPCC report and the attitude of the parties toward its findings remain a highly controversial item. In order to neutralize the controversy, the presidency appointed yet another ministerial pair: Isabell Lövin from Sweden and Carlos Manuel Rodríguez from Costa Rica. They have been tasked with drafting a compromise to be incorporated in the final decision of COP24.

Talanoa Dialogue becomes the Talanoa Call to Action. The consultative process initiated a year ago by the Fijian presidency concluded yesterday after two days of ministerial statements from each country. The goal was to review all climate action initiatives to date, evaluate their results and encourage both states and non-state actors to increase their climate ambitions. At the high-level closing segment, the Prime Minister of Fiji challenged the parties to increase their NDCs “fivefold - five times more ambition, five times more action” in order to meet the 1.5-degree target by 2100. The outcome of the dialogue is to be the starting point for discussions on new climate goals after 2020.

World Bank: decarbonization in Poland will pay out. Faster energy transformation towards RES would increase Polish GDP, improve air quality and health, says the WB’s special report to be presented today at COP24. The document considers different transformation paths for Poland’s energy sector. The boldest scenario assumes that the share of RES in power generation will increase from 14 to 47 per cent by 2030. Simultaneously, the share of coal power should decrease from the current 78 per cent to 38 per cent. This implies 25 per cent fewer jobs in coal mining, which translates into c. 20,000 layoffs. However, the WB estimates c. 100,000 new jobs would be created thanks to the emergence of new industries dealing with energy efficiency, e.g. thermal upgrading of buildings.

Guterres threatens with consequences should COP24 fail. “I see that despite some progress in the negotiating texts much remains to be done (...) the key political issues remain unresolved”, stressed the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday. The failure of COP24, he says, would send a catastrophic message to those countries that are willing and ready for energy transformation. It would also mean that the best opportunity to stop global warming would be wasted. “It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal”, he warned. “But we need to accelerate those efforts to reach consensus (...) The Katowice package needs to deliver the Paris Agreement Work Program, progress on finance and a strong and solid basis for the revision of National Determined Contributions”, Guterres indicated.

Relevant for today

  • At 9:00 am there will be a debate on "System heat as an effective tool to improve air quality" (Polish pavilion).
  • At 3:00 pm the plenary meeting of the COP will begin (International Congress Centre, Mazowsze plenary room).

Contributors: Rachel Van Horn, Aleksander Szojda-Pallado.