Find out what was agreed at COP24 and what this means for business.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the annual meeting of the nations signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its purpose is to advance global action to tackle climate change. This year's conference, the 24th (hence COP24) was held in Katowice, Poland.
At COP21 in 2015, 195 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement, which committed them to keep global temperatures "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and "endeavor to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In addition, the industrialized countries agreed to pay US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries to decarbonize their economies.
In advance of the conference, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which examines the science behind climate change, published a report1 highlighting that the planet's temperature will increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius in just 11 years unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions globally.
This year has seen growing evidence that climate change is already having increasingly serious impacts, ranging from heatwaves in the Arctic Circle to sea level rises and increased ocean acidification. In addition, the U.S. Government's National Climate Assessment2 warned that climate change could cut the size of the U.S. economy by 10 percent by 2100 if no action is taken.
|KPMG view: What does COP24 mean for business?
Despite the ever-stronger scientific consensus on the causes and impacts of climate change, governments of a few key nations remain skeptical.
In 2017, the U.S. submitted a formal notice of withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, however, complete withdrawal cannot take place before November 4, 2020.3
The president-elect of Brazil, home to most of the Amazon rainforest, has cancelled Brazil’s offer to host the next COP talks.
In addition, four oil-producing countries including the US refused to welcome the latest IPCC climate research.
Business leaders called for bold action and clarity
A public statement4 - signed by groups representing hundreds of businesses, investors, and cities - called on governments at COP24 to give business and the markets clarity by delivering "bold targets and clear timelines" for climate action.
Businesses emphasized that the necessary scale and pace of low-carbon transformation must be driven by ambitious and unequivocal policy signals from national governments.
There was a particular business focus on setting strong rules to improve the reliability of data on carbon reductions by nations. Business also stressed that improved clarity is needed on future government ambitions for cutting carbon in order to drive investment. They also called for more clarity on how carbon markets and climate finance will be used.
Many well-known businesses used COP24 as a platform to launch ambitious carbon reduction targets of their own.
Governments and international institutions announced new initiatives
The European Union signed off on tighter 2030 targets on energy efficiency (an improvement of at least 32.5 percent), renewable energy (32 percent of total energy use) and renewable transport fuels (14 percent).5 The UK announced plans to create the world's first “net-zero carbon” industrial cluster of heavy industry by 2040 to allow it to “export emissions-cutting expertise like carbon capture around the world.”6
The World Bank announced it will provide financial, technical and advisory support to help developing countries manage the socio-economic impacts of moving away from coal.7 This initiative recognized that progress on addressing climate change has been blocked by fears that it would cost jobs and hit growth in countries with significant coal industries or coal-dependent energy industries.
Popular figureheads spoke out
World-renowned conservationist David Attenborough warned world leaders that climate change could bring about the collapse of civilizations and the natural world on which mankind depends.
Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, the figurehead of a global movement of students organizing school strikes to put pressure on political leaders, warned leaders that failing to take action will not play well with the voters of tomorrow.8
She said: “You say you love your children … and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope.
“We have not come here to beg world leaders to care...We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
The Paris Agreement Rulebook was finalized
The main aim of COP24 was to finalize the rules that will govern the Paris Agreement, which is due to come into force by 2020.
The meeting ran into controversy early on as a handful of countries questioned some of the recent climate research, but eventually an agreement emerged that was stronger than many negotiators had hoped for, although typically, it was a compromise that pleased no one fully.
The rulebook9 sets the rules on areas such as how to establish and monitor national emissions reduction plans. There is now some flexibility on how poorer countries report their progress, after a number of nations said they lacked the capacity to track and monitor emissions. They will be able to explain why they have not reported and present plans to build reporting capacity.
The rulebook also includes guidelines that relate to:
Nations also agreed to update their national carbon reduction targets (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) by 2020, making it possible that a number of leading economies could strengthen their climate targets.
But the deal was held up over rules for new carbon markets which were meant to eliminate double-counting of carbon credits traded across borders. Objections meant that the issue has been deferred to next year's meeting, which will be held in Chile.
9UNFCCC (2018) ‘Proposal by the President: Informal compilation of L-documents’, Version 15/12/2018.