Spotlight on the United Nations climate summit

The 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP24, recently concluded in Katowice, Poland, with agreement to put the commitments of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement into practice.

More than 190 countries were represented at the annual gathering to try and keep the world on the path towards mitigating and minimising dangerous climate change.

Q&A digest of COP24

1. What were the key outcomes?

  • The ‘Katowice rulebook’ (containing all the detailed operating rules of the Paris agreement and coming into force in 2020) was agreed, including some contentious elements relating to emission measurement methodologies and how to verify emission reduction activities.
  • Governments have to update their emission reduction plans by 2020.
  • The rulebook establishes the ‘global stocktake’ mechanism which will take place every five years, starting in 2023, to create a positive feedback mechanism for signatory countries to continue to up their level of ambition to cut carbon emissions.

2. How soon is real action required?

  • Considering the stark wake-up call presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published in the last quarter of 2018 about the need to not exceed a 1.5ºC temperature rise, rather than 2ºC, there is consensus that there is only around 10 years available in which to slow down emissions in an effort to stabilise the climate.
  • Global emissions had reduced in recent years as economic output had reduced in some locations and the roll-out of renewable energy technology had sped up – but there has been an upturn in emissions and hard-won reductions have been nullified.
  • The bottom line is that the rate of deploying energy-efficient technology and renewable energy generation capacity needs to accelerate – and fast.

3. What happens next?

  • Signatories have agreed to use the UN sustainable development summit to be held in September 2019 as an opportunity to revisit the level of aspiration to cut emissions.
  • COP25 will take place later in 2019 and Chile will host the meeting. This will be a further opportunity to nail down the more tricky, outstanding elements of the Paris agreement process.
  • COP26 in 2020 will be the key battleground – this is when countries will need to meet the deadline for their long-term emissions reduction commitments and produce new targets for 2030 and beyond.
  • There is a possibility that the UK could host COP26 in 2020 – the UK government has an enviable track record in setting and meeting long-term carbon targets, as evidenced by the recent 10thanniversary of the 2008 Climate Change Act.

The Luminous view

Climate change is happening faster and with more impact than once expected, as reported in the IPCC’s 2018 report. It disclosed that additional heating of the Earth by just 1.5ºC will cause sea levels to rise, coral reefs to perish, the escalation of species loss and greater incidence of extreme weather – floods, droughts and heatwaves. The stark reality is that considering the current national emissions target commitment, the world is heading for a 3ºC temperature increase according to the report’s scientist authors.

2019 will be the year that organisations will need to strengthen activity to tackle their carbon emissions in terms of target setting as well as action and subsequent reporting. Moreover, organisations will need to collectively put pressure on governments to provide a clear vision about their planned efforts to tackle climate change head-on. Certainty is key for business as it provides a clear pathway to help frame investment decisions, among other things. And let’s not forget that corporates are increasingly expected to report on how they’ll deliver against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - read our blog on this very topic.

If you would like to know more about how your organisation can best report and disclose its carbon, climate change and sustainability story to stakeholders, or if you would like help with identifying which of the 17 SDGs most resonates with your own business, please get in touch.



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James Whittingham

James helps our clients with their sustainability reporting, disclosure and consultancy needs across the full sustainability spectrum of issues and impacts.

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