Summary of Outcomes

During the first two weeks of December 2018, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement met in Katowice, Poland, for the latest round of climate change negotiations. The negotiations, referred to as COP 24, focused on two main objectives: first, to make the Paris Agreement operational through the completion of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) and the adoption of the Paris Agreement "Rulebook"; and second, to raise climate ambition and drive transformative action through the Talanoa Dialogue and the pre-2020 stocktake.

The urgency of the need to complete the PAWP led Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, to call the December negotiations the "most important" Conference of the Parties (COP) since the Paris Agreement was concluded in 2015.

COP 24 took place in the context of several important developments. Notably, many participants expressed an escalated sense of urgency following the release in October of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels (IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C), which found significantly greater risks if the planet warms by an average of 2 degrees Celsius by comparison to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While the Parties failed to officially "welcome" the IPCC's Special Report on 1.5°C, it nonetheless provided support for the call by many countries to urgently raise climate ambition and accelerate climate action.

As outgoing President of the COP, Fiji's Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, stressed there is an urgent need to scale up climate ambition, enhance the commitments that nations have made under their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and deliver on the financing that will be essential to deploying renewable energy on the scale needed to keep global warming within a limit that is relatively safe for human civilizations.

We gather tonight at a critical phase of our collective struggle to persuade the world to accelerate our response to climate change," Bainimarama told a gathering in London on the eve of the Poland talks. "[W]e must not only be much more ambitious in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to cap the rise in the average global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial age— the most ambitious target of the Paris Agreement. We must also be much more ambitious in raising the many billions of dollars needed to finance climate action and adaptation for the most vulnerable. And much more ambitious in continuing to develop alternative clean technologies and making them more affordable and accessible throughout the world."

Fiji's presidency came to an end after a year of leading a process called the Talanoa Dialogue, which resulted in hundreds of meetings across the globe between States and non-State actors to discuss how to deliver on climate action, and which culminated in political level engagement in Katowice. Although not specifically referenced in the formal COP 24 decisions, the joint Fiji-Poland Presidencies "Talanoa Call to Action" was widely supported by the Parties. The Talanoa Call to Action calls on all stakeholders to show bold leadership by acting together to fulfil the goal's of the Paris Agreement, with particular emphasis on achieving a "just transition" to a better world and the transformative use of technology.

The strong engagement of non-State actors in the Talanoa Dialogue was matched by a number of commitments from the business community and other stakeholders to scale up finance and ambition, including:

  • ING, BBVA, Société Générale, Standard Chartered and BNP Paribas, with a combined loan book of €2.4 trillion, made the "Katowice Commitment" to develop tools for measuring the alignment of their lending portfolios with the goals of the Paris Agreement, finance low-emissions technologies and work with customers on their transition to the low-carbon economy.
  • The World Bank Group announced that it will invest $200 billion over 2021–2025 to support countries in taking ambitious climate action. This doubles its previous commitments, and in particular boosts funding for adaptation and resilience.

The host nation, Poland, took up the presidency of COP 24 with a strong focus on forests, electric vehicles and "a deep but just transition" to a low-carbon economy. To this end, the Polish presidency released the "Forests for Climate" declaration which recognised the key role of forests in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and called on all stakeholders to take ambitious forestry related climate action; the "Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration" which highlighted the need for social approval and a just transition of the workforce, and the "Driving Change Together—Katowice Partnership for Electromobility" declaration which established a new fund to support increased electric transport.

Paris Agreement "Rulebook" Outcomes

The negotiations on the Paris Agreement "Rulebook" were set to be challenging due to strongly entrenched positions from many Parties. A key issue in the negotiations was differentiation, namely how to operationalise "differentiation" in the Rulebook, which considers balancing the need to afford flexibility to developing countries based on their national circumstances and capacity, with the need for common guidance that ensures greater ambition. Another key issue was the level and predictability of financial support provided to developing country Parties, including the establishment of a new long-term finance goal and the communication by developed country Parties' of indicative information on the provision and mobilization of climate finance.

After a mammoth 48 hours of intense ministerial negotiations the Katowice Climate Package was adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) at 10pm on 15 December-a day after the meeting was due to close—a ritual that has become the norm in the annual COP meetings.

Parties reached agreement on the majority of the issues mandated under the PAWP, including:

  • NDCs: establishing guidelines that provide further clarity on features, minimum requirements and accounting, which will allow for greater comparability of NDCs;
  • Adaptation: increasing the profile of and reporting on adaptation through the Adaptation Communication;
  • Finance: mandating additional reporting on ex ante and ex post climate finance flows, agreeing to commence discussions on the new long-term finance goal and agreeing on the transition of the Adaptation Fund from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement;
  • Technology: elaborating the Technology Framework, which will serve the Paris Agreement by furthering innovation, implementation, enabling environments and capacity-building, collaboration and stakeholder engagement, and support;
  • Transparency Framework: operationalising a robust and common system that all Parties must use in accounting for their emissions, with some flexibility afforded to developing country Parties if required;
  • Global Stocktake: operationalising the Paris Agreement's key mechanism for driving ambition through taking stock of collective progress; and
  • Compliance: operationalising the Compliance Committee, which has the power to initiate consideration of Parties' non-compliance with mandatory reporting requirements.

The Katowice Climate Package largely delivered the Paris Agreement "Rulebook", a significant achievement given the political sensitivity and technical complexity of the negotiations. In particular, the decision on the Transparency Framework represents an important step in allowing Parties to move forward on implementing their NDCs.

The failure to adopt a decision on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement relating to cooperative approaches (ie market mechanisms) was disappointing, however substantial progress was made in reducing the length and eliminating some options of the draft decision text, and Parties will continue work in 2019 with the aim of reaching an agreement at CMA2.

At the close of the negotiations, Parties generally welcomed the outcome of the PAWP, and in particular the EU, Switzerland, Mexico, South Korea, India, Brazil, South Africa and China were of the view that the Paris Agreement "Rulebook" provides Parties and non-party stakeholders the necessary tools to begin to fully implement the Paris Agreement. Civil society urged Parties to increase their ambition, noting that the global response to climate change remains inadequate.

Perhaps the most important result is that Parties demonstrated a continued commitment to multilateralism in general, and to the Paris Agreement in particular-a significant achievement given the political challenges faced by negotiators.

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