More than two weeks of climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland that ended on 15 December 2018 have resulted in clarity for the ‘rulebook’ that will dictate how the Paris agreement of 2015 is actually put into force. But the ambition expressed before the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) - that of increasing government targets around the global for cutting carbon emissions - has not been successful.
So whilst the talks were a partial success, they were also in part a failure. With no significant movement in countries’ agreed targets for emissions reductions, we are still facing temperatures that are on track to have increased more than 3C at the end of this century. The Paris agreement’s aim was to keep temperature rises as close to 1.5C and below 2C by 2100, so the world is still well off course.
There will be another meeting next year, as there has been every year since COP 1, held in Berlin in 1995, but this is likely to focus on technical issues. COP 26, to be held in either Italy or the UK in 2020 is likely to be the vital one - at which countries will need to finally come up with the plans to make significant emissions reductions.
A new feature of COP 24 was the number of young people who were involved and taking an interest in the proceedings. Young people are becoming increasingly frustrated at the way older generations seem unable to agree an approach to cutting emissions. It would be an awful legacy if future generations blamed current decision makers for their failure to act. But the time for decisive and effective action is getting shorter. The climate clock is ticking and environmental activists are planning to press for more commitments to cut emissions across the planet, which they want to see in place now, not in 2020.