COP24 diary – day #4

Delegates are now working on a 200 or so document, down from the 307 pages text negotiators presented at the end of the Bangkok session last September. By the end of this week, they are to present a significantly reduced and homogenous text. [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: An update on the negotiations, Bulgaria, Canada, open letters, the shipping and car industry, and more.

On the negotiation side. Negotiations on the technical aspects of the Paris Agreement officially started 4 December.

“What negotiators are now trying to do is to streamline the current negotiation text,” said Lucile Dufour, representing the French branch within the CAN International network. 

“There are many options on the table, the worst and the best. Negotiators will try to meet somewhere in the middle, in the so-called landing zones,” she explained to EURACTIV.

This means delegates are now working on a 200-or-so page document, down from the 307-page text that negotiators presented at the end of the Bangkok session last September. By the end of this week, they are to present a significantly reduced and homogenous document.

In this process, a notorious element has emerged since the COP21 in Paris: square brackets. 

In climate negotiations, brackets act as a barometer of just how far negotiators have managed to progress on specific agenda items. The less brackets there are, the more likely compromises are to be reached.

The typo reached a quasi star status in 2015 in Paris as the world started to count how many brackets there were left in the course of the negotiation. For a better understanding, here is an an example on what negotiators are currently working on: 

[Option A :

1. The mechanism to facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the provisions of the Paris Agreement established under Article 15 of the Agreement consists of a committee.

2. The Committee under Article 15 of the Agreement (hereinafter ‘the Committee’) shall be expert-based and facilitative in nature and function in a manner that is transparent, non-adversarial and non-punitive. The Committee shall pay particular attention to the respective national capabilities and circumstances of Parties.

3. The Committee shall operate under the modalities and procedures adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement (CMA) at its first session as well as any additional guidance that may be provided by the CMA and report annually to the CMA.

4. [The Committee’s work shall also reflect equity and the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

5. In carrying out its work, the Committee shall strive to avoid duplication of effort, shall neither function as an enforcement or dispute settlement mechanism, nor impose penalties or sanctions, and shall respect national sovereignty.]

The task is all but easy: negotiators and world leaders have until 14 December to coordinate 196 Parties in zeroing down all options and all brackets if they are to make the Paris Agreement operational, a move akin to trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube as fast as possible with 190-plus other sets of hands on the same cube.

Russia. Lucile Dufour also highlighted the fact that Russia has pledged to put money in the Green Climate Funds, only a few days after Germany announced it will pay another €1.5 bilion into the UN Green Climate Fund over the next two years, a doubling of payments so far.

The fund supports projects on climate protection and adaptation to climate change in developing and emerging countries. World leaders agreed to establish the fund in 2010 at a climate conference in Cancun, Mexico and so far nearly €10 billion has been pledged from public and private sources.

Bulgaria.  While a Bulgarian coal company prepares to dig an open pit coal mine spanning three villages, a local farmer has launched a legal case to stop it, NGO ClientEarth said in a press release.

Emil Mirchev, who has farmed his family land in Aldomirovtsi for decades, has filed a legal case to have the Bulgarian Council of Ministers’ decision, allowing the mine, overturned. He has received legal assistance from campaigning coalition Za Zemiata Access to Justice and environmental lawyers ClientEarth in preparing the suit.

“We are against the mine because its opening will severely damage the quality of life in at least three villages in the region. The mine is near a water catchment area and there is a real danger of polluting it. Also, the heavy transporting equipment to and from the mine will ruin the brand new infrastructure. Mining will put an end to agriculture and farming which are very important for people here. Our fertile land is worth much more to us and our children than the money they will pay us as compensation,” Emil Mirchev is quoted as saying.

The ‘Slivnitsa mine’ would eat into a 2km2 expanse of land. The main water supplies for villages Barlozhista and Radulovtsi will likely be destroyed and two popular lakes in Bratushkovo and Radulovtsi, used by sports enthusiasts and holidaymakers, drained and bulldozed, the NGO explained. The mine would feed notoriously dangerous coal power plant Bobov Dol, a major polluter in south-western Bulgaria. This raises great concern for people’s health across Bulgaria, and for the climate, it added.

“Europe is moving away from coal and this mine, set to be open for 30 years, cannot be justified,” ClientEarth lawyer Dominique Doyle said. “Looking ahead, we may see the EU legislate to move the bloc beyond coal – investment in a mine like this, with such a devastating impact for the surrounding area and thousands of people, is exceptionally short-sighted,” he added.

Canada. Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said her country will be ready to set tougher emissions-cutting plans when the Paris climate-change agreement kicks in by the end of 2020.

“People on the ground at COP24 are expressing messages of thanks and congratulations to Canada and Minister McKenna today,” said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada. “This is exactly the kind of boost that countries working hard for an ambitious outcome at this year’s climate summit needed.”

“We know this is just the beginning: with decades of missed climate targets behind it and ongoing investments in the fossil fuel industry, Canada has a long way to go to get to its fair share of the effort to confront climate change. We are looking forward to engaging with Minister McKenna and her team over the next year to build a new Paris package for Canada that delivers on the ambitious action science tells us we need.”

The Paris Agreement invites countries to update their climate commitments by 2020, the NGO recalled, adding that a major focus of COP24 is the call for countries to announce their plan to do so here in Poland.

It is unclear how many countries are going to do this, and this news from Canada shows much-needed leadership, it also said.

Calling the private sector. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, French President Emmanuel Macron and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness called on the private sector to accelerate investment in low carbon solutions ahead of the September 2019 UN Summit for sustainable goals. Government leadership is crucial but but companies must accelerate investment in green solutions, they argue.

Calling head of States. The open letter by Macron and Holness followed another one released on 29 November, signed this time by a cross-sectoral group of 50 global business leaders, urging world leaders to accelerate climate action against global warming.

“As heads of global businesses, we have an urgent but simple message for world leaders, heads of government and the international community ahead of the UNFCCC COP24 in Katowice: We are committed to climate action. We stand ready to fast-track solutions to help you deliver on an enhanced and more ambitious action plan to tackle climate change and meet the goals set out at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement,” the letter reads.

Business leaders are specifically calling for:

  • the implementation of an effective carbon pricing mechanism on carbon across the globe,
  • the stimulation of low-carbon finance and investments by offering coherent policies that shift financial flows from high-carbon investments to the low-carbon economy, thereby encouraging innovation, as well as adaptation investments
  • the development of policy tools that help educate and positively influence societal demand for low-carbon solutions.

Shipping industry. The world’s largest container shipping company AP Moller Maersk pledged on Wednesday (5 December) to cut net carbon emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2050, in a move that challenges an industry that adopted last April only an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases by “at least” 50% on 2008 levels by 2050, ending years of slow progress. 

To achieve this goal, carbon neutral vessels must be commercially viable by 2030, and an acceleration in new innovations and adaption of new technology is required, the company said in a statement.

“The next 5-10 years are going to be crucial. We will invest significant resources for innovation and fleet technology to improve the technical and financial viability of decarbonised solutions. Over the last four years, we have invested around $1bn and engaged 50+ engineers each year in developing and deploying energy efficient solutions. Going forward we cannot do this alone,” Søren Toft Chief Operating Officer at A.P. Moller – Maersk said.

“The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains,” he added.

Maersk’s relative CO2 emissions have already been reduced by 46% compared to a 2007 baseline 2007, approximately 9% more than the industry average, the company specified.

Shipping currently represents 2-3% of global CO2 emissions and could reach 10% by 2050 if no action is taken.

Car industry. In a much unexpected move, Germany’s biggest and scandal-riven car maker VW is to drop production of combustion cars by 2026, while gradually phasing out current combustion engines to the absolute minimum, German business daily Handelsblatt reported.

In doing so, Volkswagen is taking the opposite step of the German government, which is widely seen as being stuck in a business-as-usual policy.   

The company is planning the climate-neutral production of its upcoming electric model ID Neo, which is the successor to the company’s best-selling electric model E-Golf and seen as VW’s entry into true mass-market e-mobility, the German daily reported.

Production of the ID Neo is set to launch in 2020 in the Eastern German town of Zwickau, where VW plans Europe’s largest e-car factory with an annual output of 330,000 vehicles, it added, quoting a company representative saying that production could not be entirely emission-free from day one, but that VW plans to compensate for this, for example via certificates for rainforest reforestation.

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