COP24 diary – day #11

Representatives and Ministers hold a press conference to announce the revival of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) to step up ambition. [Photos by IISD/ENB - Kiara Worth]

Over this special series on COP24, EURACTIV gives you a glimpse into the goings on of the UN climate conference in Katowice and what is driving the conversation there. In this edition: climate ambition at last, UN Secretary-General pounding on the table, Portugal getting carbon neutral, 630 brackets, and more.

Finally talking about ambition. Exactly three years after the world first ever treaty on climate change was adopted by all 195 parties (COP21, 12 December 2015), the coalition of countries who played a pivotal role that year reestablished itself on the eve of the crucial next 48 hours.

Gathered in the European pavillion, Ministers for the Environment from Grenada, Ethiopia, Germany, Norway, EU, Canada, Switzerland, Argentina, Denmark, Colombia said it was not acceptable for them to leave the Katowice without a decision that welcomes the IPCC 1.5 report and a decision on Talanoa Dialogue.

In the document, the signatories stated that they are determined to step up their ambition by 2020, in line with the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. They will achieve this through increasing their climate pledges, the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions, increasing short term action and long-term low emission development strategies.

Get on with it. Earlier on, in the afternoon, UN Secretary-General António Guterres diplomatically pounded the negotiating table, urging delegates to get on with it.

“I left Katowice hopeful, but uncertain. While I was away, three more reports were added to the long list of warnings signals: a Special WHO report on impacts to health due to climate change; a UN Environment Programme report which highlights the opportunities for reducing emissions in the construction sector; and NASA’s research on the first signs of significant melting of glaciers in East Antarctica. Returning to Katowice, I see that despite some progress in the negotiating texts much remains to be done,” Guterres  said.

He then called on the Polish presidency to step up its efforts: “Katowice must be, Mr. President, the dawn of a new determination to unleash the promise of the Paris Agreement”.

“We clearly have the know-how and the ability to reach 1.5C. We see incredible momentum from all segments of society to lower emissions and make the transition from the grey economy to the green. We have the ways. What we need is the political will to move forward,” he said.

630 Brackets. Taking into account that no major progresses was made and that negotiators were stuck into the nitty-gritty of the text, COP president Michał Kurtyka said on Tuesday evening (11 December) that he was taking control of the talks.

“Based on the reports we’ve just heard and the advancement of work, I can see that current approach to negotiations is exhausted,” he said, before urging delegates to come up with a new textual proposal the following day.

“Look at the big picture, leave the micro issue, don’t add brackets,” he told them.

On Wednesday evening, the series of draft documents began to be published. So, how many brackets are still left? Simon Evans, deputy editor at UK-based Carbon Brief,  says the number of brackets have decreased from 2,809 in October to 630, while the number of pages went down from 236 to 136 pages.

CarbonBrief [Simon Evans]

 

Portugal. Portugal presented on Wednesday (12 December) its 2050 carbon neutral strategy on the sideline of COP24. Portugal committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 at the COP22 in Marrakesh two years ago. 

The objective is to map the road to carbon neutrality, based on the collaborative engagement between policies, technology and capital, as well as with the participation of civil society and the private sector. 

Portugal’s environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes was beaming with pride in Katowice. “We are frontrunner, we show the other member states that it is possible to become carbon neutral by 2050,” he told EURACTIV on the sidelines of COP24.

“Of course, there are different ways to achieve this. When we talk about long-term projects on carbon neutrality, we have to understand that it is possible to be flexible on defining the way to become carbon neutral,” he said. “But the goals should not be modified,” he said.

Commenting on calls to raise the EU’s climate ambition, João Pedro Matos Fernandes said that member states have to reach their climate goals. “We understand perfectly that this is really hard, it is a real challenge,” he said. For Portugal, this means reducing emission from a ratio of 6 to 1 in 30 years – a reduction of 85%, the minister pointed out.

“If we would stick to a business-as-usual scenario, that would mean a reduction of 60% only,” he said, adding that Portugal is well on its way to achieve its goal which has been shaping its energy transition since 2005.

Fernandes specified that the roadmap includes doubling Portugal’s renewable energy capacity while investing in e-mobility. “The European Commission released its 2050 strategy. Portugal can now show it is doable,” he said.

German angst of yellow vests. Germany’s Environment minister Svenja Schulze called on Wednesday (12 December) for larger EU budget to support the “just transition” in coal regions.

“I would very much welcome it if in the next EU budget we could provide more funds for the regions affected by structural change,” she said at a press briefing, noting that this would also benefit German regions.

She also announced that Germany will support the exchange of experience between Europe’s coal regions“We have around 40 coal regions in Europe, many of which face similar challenges to the German regions,” she stated.

“It is important to provide an alternative to workers in the regions and involve them in deciding on a path to exit fossil fuels. If the people are not involved in the decision, then they put on yellow vests and demonstrate against it,” she said.

Germany. COP24 highlighted the internal divisions within the Polish government over energy and climate issues.

The same can actually be said about Germany: Early November, Germany’s environment ministry Svenja Schulze announced she was planning to team up with the finance ministry to put a price on carbon that would include sectors such as heating and transport.

A few days later, the finance ministry rejected her plan, stating: “there are no considerations to introduce a CO2 tax or a new CO2 price and to increase the burden on citizens.”

Now, in Katowice, Svenja Schulze twitted that enough was enough: “I am now proceeding so that all dedicated departments should  think about how they can contribute to save CO2. The old game which consists of considering that only the environment minister is to make proposals on climate change and that everybody else is saying it won’t work, is over”.

Germany, again. The federal ministries for the environment (BMU) and economic cooperation (BMZ) announced on Tuesday (11 December) that Germany will pledge an additional €68 million to support developing countries implement their climate targets. The initiative supports developing and emerging nations in implementing their national climate goals.

Developing countries do not necessarily have the means to create a transparent set of rules to monitor progress on climate action, said Martin Jäger, state secretary in the ministry for economic cooperation and development.

“This is an issue that we are discussing very intensively. Who reports how and to whom on what they have achieved. How do you measure that? That is now also the subject of negotiations here in Katowice with the adoption of a rulebook for the Paris Agreement,” he said at a press briefing.

Launched at the COP22 meeting in Marrakesh by Morocco and Germany, the NDC Partnership aims to enhance cooperation so that countries have access to the technical knowledge and financial support they need to achieve the goals set out in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). 70 developing and emerging nations, as well as 17 industrial countries and 20 international organisations are part of the initiative.

Saudi Arabia. In a statement, the delegation of Saudi Arabia complained about what it sees as a sharp deviation from the provisions agreed in Paris.

“Indeed, we are seeing an undue emphasis on energy and particularly oil, with efforts to impose excessive and unrealistic taxes on hydrocarbon fuels,” the statement reads.

“To fully deliver on the Paris Agreement, we must first accept that the shift to low-emission economies will take time. We must make ample and reliable energy supplies available for the long transition in order to ensure an orderly change,” it also says. 

European civil society. 45 non-state actors have called on EU countries to set an ambitious long-term goal to reduce emissions and, correspondingly, increase their Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDCs, by 2020. The Step Up Now initiative was launched on Wednesday (12 December) by 22 businesses, 15 investors, 6 cities and 2 regions from across Europe.

The initiative showcases how stakeholders (or non-state actors in UN jargon) are already stepping up action and benefiting from measures to mitigate climate change.

“The EU has the knowledge, skillset and economic drivers to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. It will be essential to scale up efforts over the next decade and review existing targets for 2030 accordingly. We believe the European countries can and should show the way towards a zero-emissions future,” they said in a statement.

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