Emissions Rules Backed at Climate Talks12/16 10:01
Nearly 200 countries at the U.N. climate talks have agreed upon universal,
transparent rules on how nations can cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb
global warming, putting the principles of the 2015 Paris climate accord into
KATOWICE, Poland (AP) -- Nearly 200 countries at the U.N. climate talks have
agreed upon universal, transparent rules on how nations can cut greenhouse gas
emissions and curb global warming, putting the principles of the 2015 Paris
climate accord into action.
But to the frustration of environmentalists and a group of countries who
were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators on Saturday delayed
decisions on two other climate issues until next year in an effort to get a
deal on them.
"Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward
together," said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the talks.
He said while each individual country would likely find some parts of the
agreement it didn't like, efforts had been made to balance the interests of all
"We will all have to give in order to gain," he said. "We will all have to
be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of
The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among
scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments
are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen
disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes
that have hit the United States this year.
And a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or
IPCC, concluded that while it's possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees
Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to
pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global
economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.
Alarmed by efforts to include this in the final text of the meeting, the
oil-exporting nations of the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an
endorsement of the IPCC report mid-way through this month's talks in the Polish
city of Katowice. That prompted uproar from vulnerable countries like small
island nations and environmental groups.
The final text at the U.N. talks omits a previous reference to specific
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and merely welcomes the "timely
completion" of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.
Last-minute snags forced negotiators in Katowice to go into extra time,
after Friday's scheduled end of the conference had passed without a deal.
One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon
credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an
effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of
money for measures to curb global warming.
But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under
an old system that developed countries say wasn't credible or transparent.
Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite
President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and
his promotion of coal as a source of energy.
"Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic --- pushing
coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for
strong transparency rules," said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and
Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank.
When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to
dodge their commitments to cut emissions, "the U.S. pushed harder than nearly
anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same
system, and it's largely succeeded."
"Transparency is vital to U.S. interests," added Nathaniel Keohane, a
climate policy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. He noted that
breakthrough in the 2015 Paris talks happened only after the U.S. and China
agreed on a common framework for transparency.
"In Katowice, the U.S. negotiators have played a central role in the talks,
helping to broker an outcome that is true to the Paris vision of a common
transparency framework for all countries that also provides flexibility for
those that need it," said Keohane, calling the agreement "a vital step forward
in realizing the promise of the Paris accord."
Among the key achievements in Katowice was an agreement on how countries
should report their greenhouses gas emissions and the efforts they're taking to
reduce them. Poor countries also secured assurances on getting greater
predictability about financial support to help them cut emissions, adapt to
inevitable changes such as sea level rises and pay for damages that have
"The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created,
which is something to be thankful for," said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy
expert at Christian Aid. "But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and
screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the
urgent call of the IPCC report" on the dire consequences of global warming.
In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions trading system was
postponed to next year's meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue
of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September.
Canada's Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no
alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems,
especially as multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism.
"The world has changed, the political landscape has changed," she told The
Associated Press. "Still you're seeing here that we're able to make progress.
We're able to discuss the issues. We're able to come to solutions."