Nearly 200 nations overcame political divisions on Saturday to agree on rules for implementing a landmark global climate deal, but critics say it is not ambitious enough to prevent the dangerous effects of global warming.
After two weeks of talks in the Polish city of Katowice, officials from around the world finally reached a consensus on a more detailed framework for the 2015 Paris Agreement which aims to limit a rise in average world temperatures to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
“It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical. Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together. You can feel proud,” Polish president of the talks Michal Kurtyka told delegates.
After he struck the gavel to signal agreement had been reached, ministers joined him on the stage, hugging and laughing in signs of relief after the marathon talks.
Before the talks started, many expected that the deal would not be as robust as is needed. The unity which underpinned the Paris talks has fragmented and the United States President, Donald Trump, intends to pull his country – one of the world’s biggest emitters – out of the pact.
Still, exhausted ministers managed to bridge a series of divides to produce a 156-page rule book, which is broken down into themes such as how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions and update their emissions plans.
‘Not strong enough’
However, an eight-page decision framework text was criticised by some countries and green groups for failing to urge increased ambitions on emission cuts sufficiently to curb rising temperatures.
“The majority of the rule book for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead 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,” he added.
A United Nations-commissioned report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October warned that keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5C would need “unprecedented changes” in every aspect of society.
Last week, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia and Kuwait refused to use the word “welcome” in association with the findings of the report.
The decision text now merely expresses gratitude for the work on the report, welcomes its timely completion and invites parties to use the information in it.
For many low-lying states and islands that are at risk from rising sea levels, this is not strong enough but had to be accepted grudgingly in exchange for other trade-offs.
“There should be a direct link between the findings of the report and the specific actions that would underpin ambition both in terms of action and finance,” Simon Stiell, Grenada’s environment minister, told Reuters.
“The challenges will be with some of the bigger players in terms of stepping up to their responsibilities and what is required to truly operationalise the Paris Agreement,” he added.
At the eleventh hour, ministers managed to break a deadlock between Brazil and other countries over the accounting rules for the monitoring of carbon credits, deferring a bulk of that discussion to next year.