The almost 200 countries that are part of the Convention UN Framework on Climate Change – practically all the States of the world – discuss for 25 years how to tackle a problem that has already mortgaged the future generations that will inhabit the planet: global warming. There have already been 24 summits (usually annual) like the one that ended Saturday night in the Polish city of Katowice. But it had to wait for the 2015 meeting to close a pact that involves all countries in the effective fight against warming: the Paris Agreement.
"In Paris we invented football, now we need to create the rules", explains Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the OECD, who this week has been in Katowice. With the pact of Paris the general framework was created (which includes the objectives and marks the ways to try to achieve them). But technical development was lacking, which must be completed before 2020, when the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement comes into operation. And that regulation is what, for the most part, has been approved now: a complex technical document of almost 120 pages that contains the rules of transparency, financing, adaptation and cuts of greenhouse gas emissions to implement the Paris Agreement (and that works).
Success or failure?
Depending on where you look at the Katowice summit, you can consider it a success or a failure. The countries have not closed an ambitious political pact that urges to undertake drastic cuts in emissions, but if only the most technical section of the summit (the development of the rules) is considered, most of the objectives have been reached. Although a part – that referred to the emissions markets – has been left for the next summit, to be held in Chile, due to the lack of consensus.
All pacts in these appointments must be approved unanimously; Any country can block the adoption of an agreement. The complete application of Paris will mean a transformation of the world economy and put aside fossil fuels, responsible for the vast majority of gases that heat the planet. That is why many countries that depend on these fuels tend to torpedo or block summits.
To this is added the disappearance of most of the leaders who in 2015 allied themselves to close the Paris Agreement and the irruption of characters like Donald Trump who reject multilateralism. It also weighs the fear among some leaders of the European Union that environmental protection measures can arouse protests like those of the yellow vests in France, a country very active in previous summits but that has been disappeared from this.
Therefore, Teresa Ribera, the Spanish minister for the Ecological Transition, highlighted on Saturday the importance that in Katowice "all" countries have agreed on the rules of the Paris Pact.
Despite this success in the development of Paris, the problem now is the speed with which we must act. These more than two interminable decades of negotiations (in which the global emissions have continued to grow year after year) have served to make a scientific failure: the accumulation in the atmosphere of these gases is such that now you can not aspire to reverse the warming, but to leave it within manageable limits. That means, according to the Paris Agreement, that the average increase in temperature does not exceed 2 degrees and try to even stay at 1.5 compared to pre-industrial levels.
At this moment, the world is already at a degree Celsius of temperature increase and the impacts in the form of more frequent and intense extreme weather events are already noticeable throughout the planet. The IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for its acronym in English) presented a report in October in which he warned the governments that if they wanted to meet the goal of 1.5 they should halve global emissions by 2030; basically, that a revolution should be undertaken in little more than a decade.
But the plans of cuts of the emissions of the World governments do not point at all to that revolution. When a country adheres to the Paris Agreement it is obliged to submit national commitments of cuts. The sum of all these plans must serve to fulfill the common objective. However, the cuts that have already been presented are so little ambitious that they will lead to an increase of more than 3 degrees of the temperature.
The IPCC report should be incorporated into the regulations surrounding the Paris Agreement at this summit in Katowice. And this has been done, but without including in the final declaration the hard cuts (45% compared to current levels in just over a decade) that would have to be undertaken. The pressures of Saudi Arabia and the United States have forced to reduce the references to that document to avoid a failure. Javier Andaluz, responsible for climate change of Ecologists in Action, criticizes these countries, which also joined Russia and Kuwait, "dare to question scientific reports beyond doubt."
Trump announced a year ago that he wants to get the US out of the Paris Agreement. But, when the pact was closed in 2015 (with Obama as president), clauses were included that make it impossible for the US, which had already ratified the agreement, to leave before 2020. Many negotiators in Katowice maintain the hope that, for then, Trump is no longer in the White House. Meanwhile, the US negotiating team continues to participate in the summits. And, although it has blocked the most political part (the one that affects the IPCC report), that technical team has helped develop the regulation that will serve to implement the Paris Agreement.
Two Spaniards have been at this summit at the center of the negotiations when the discussions have become more difficult. The minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, was asked for help from the presidency of the summit (held by the host country, Poland) to unblock the section referring to the transparency of data that must be reported by all countries. In addition, Spain has been much more active than in the summits that governed the PP. Pedro Sánchez was one of the few presidents who decided to attend the opening of the event to show their support for the fight against climate change.
The other Spaniard who has been very involved has been the European Commissioner of Action for Climate, Miguel Arias Cañete. The popular was already part of the nucleus of policy makers that drove the Paris Agreement in 2015. And at the next summits (as the leaders of the big countries fell one by one) the EU has tried to keep up the pulse of ambition against The warm-up. During the last day of the Katowice meeting, the EU and the Commissioner had to intervene on several occasions to unblock the final pact, which was reached at ten o'clock at night, more than 24 hours late.