The Importance of COP24 By Dr Shaukat Ali

The hot debate in the cold month of December was COP24 (Conference of the Parties 24). People from all sectors of life were focused on Poland for two weeks as world leaders gathered for the mega climate change event.
Although COPs have taken place almost every year since the United Nations Framework Convention entered into force in 1994, the significant aspect of this year’s COP was that the implementation of the 2015 Paris agreement was discussed. The agreement aimed to limit warming at 1.5 C. Therefore, it was expected that the outcomes of this conference would have substantial impacts in terms of halting global warming.

However, the fact is that up till now COPs have not yielded any significant outcome whether it is the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Copenhagen 2009 or others. The only exception would be COP21 in Paris 2015, which produced optimistic outcomes. The agreement represents a hybrid of the top-down Kyoto approach and the bottom-up approach of the Copenhagen and Cancun agreements. It legally binds countries to procedural commitments but gives them liberty to decide voluntarily “nationally determined contribution” (NDC). It sets out a transparent action plan for tracking all countries’ progress by technical experts. It establishes common binding procedural commitments for all countries, but leaves it to each to decide its nonbinding NDC.

There are lots of things in the Paris agreement which need to be clinched yet. That is the reason the international community gathered in Poland to figure out how the Paris agreement should be implemented to halt warming at 1.5 C.

Before the talk started, it was expected that the deal would not be as effective as was needed. This perception was there due to the increasingly stringent behaviour of the U.S government towards the issue of climate change. The US, the biggest emitter of GHGs, had tried to withdraw from the pact last year. This time somehow ministers managed to overcome the conflict between nations and devised a rulebook. This rulebook is broken down into themes such as how countries are to report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions and update their emissions plans.

However, last minute noise on carbon markets threatened to derail the two-week summit and people around the world lost hope once again over the climate negotiations. But a one-day extension in the summit proved fruitful and 196 nations finally agreed on the global climate accord rules which have set regulation on how to cut carbon emissions, ensure provision of financial resources to under-developed countries and devise mechanism of transparent reporting of efforts by nations to halt warming.

The goal of the accord is to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius according to Paris Agreement 2015. There has been a big push for countries to up their ambition, and cut carbon deeper and with greater urgency. Many delegates want to see a rapid increase in ambition before 2020 to keep the chances of staying under 1.5C alive. However, legal bindings for under developing countries seem to be a challenge as the main constraints to climate change adaptation and mitigation lie in the lack of finances.

Poorer countries want some flexibility in the rules so that they are not overwhelmed with regulations that they don’t have the capacity to put into practice. But financial support has been pledged by developed countries to enable developing countries to do the needful. This is especially important for the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund.

COP24 has important implications for Pakistan as the country faces the double challenges of the threat of rising average temperatures and the fears of economic strain that hinder the cutting down on greenhouse gases. A six-member delegation from Pakistan, headed by Malik Amin Aslam, vigorously participated in all the events at COP24. Pakistan’s support for the Paris agreement was reiterated and efforts towards fighting global warming highlighted at the summit.

Pakistan has been elected the vice-president and rapporteur of the COP. This is a positive indication and reflects the seriousness of the recent government towards the issue of climate change. But it will take long-term efforts to minimise the vulnerability. According to Germanwatch, Pakistan is listed as the eight most affected country in the global Climate Risk Index.

The situation gets worse every coming year because Pakistan is getting repeatedly affected in terms of climate extremes and gets no time to recover. Therefore, predictable and reliable financial support is urgently required to tackle climate-induced loss and damage as well. In this regard, the consensus on the Paris rulebook is a ray of hope as its successful implementation will have an impact on Pakistan too.

Keeping in view the history of the failure of other COPs, it is important for all nations to fulfil their legal bindings as devised under COP24 so as to ensure its success. The betterment of our planet lies in serious, timely and solid actions directed to limit warming since we are already short on time.

The writer is a researcher at the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), Ministry of Climate Change.


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