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What to watch for at Katowice

If countries can agree on a Paris rulebook, COP 24 will be deemed at least partially successful

Vijay Samnotra, Senior Climate Advisor, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, India

The 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP 24, in the media vernacular — opened this week in Katowice, Poland one day ahead of schedule. The world assembles in Katowice in the wake of the unequivocal message delivered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on the feasibility of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees C, and the dire consequences if we do not. (This is the third time Poland has physically hosted the COP — more than any other country, except Germany, which hosts the climate change secretariat.) The seriousness of this message has been brought home by recent climate induced disasters, including but not limited to the fires in California, floods in Kerala and typhoons in the Asia-Pacific region. Separately, the UN Environmental Programme recently announced that global emissions of carbon dioxide actually rose in 2017, for the first time in three years.

If the 2015 Paris Agreement was heralded as the first universal and operational accord to guide the international response to climate change, the conference in Katowice is seen as the beginning of a two-year period of critical policy actions by the global community to raise its ambitions to realize major new increases in climate commitments in 2020.

A number of issues are on the table in Katowice, relating to mitigation, reporting and review, finance, the global stock-take and markets, among other things. But the success of this conference will be measured by the commitment countries demonstrate by reaching agreement on: One, detailed guidelines on how the Agreement will be implemented in a transparent fashion, referred to as the “Paris Rulebook”; two, a clear signal that nations will enhance their climate commitments by 2020; and three, availability of financial resources to support a zero-carbon and climate-resilient transition.

While technologies like wind, solar, and power storage continue to improve and drop in price, the global clean energy revolution will still require a strong push in Katowice by strengthening norms and expectations. China’s clean energy investment hit a new high of US $132 billion last year. Electric vehicle sales in the United States are up 35 percent over the last year, and electric vehicle sales in China are three times those in the US. In India, the share of renewable energy sources is 18 percent of the total installed capacity of electricity in the country and the share of renewables has trebled in the last 10 years. India is now the world’s fifth-largest producer of solar power, and sixth-largest producer of renewable energy. It aims to achieve 40 percent installed capacity from non-fossil fuel energy resources by 2030 and 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, including a target of 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.

Also, India has strengthened its response to the threat of climate change in accordance with the principles of equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities. At COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, India pledged to go “above and beyond” its Paris climate commitments as a “moral obligation”.

Of great interest will be the dialogue process at COP 24 not just between the national governments, but also between ministers, CEOs of business and industry, civil society groups and others — a wide range of actors who can and must play a key role in transforming the vision of the Paris Agreement to reality.