COP24: Two Days Left and Many Unresolved Issues

Two days remain at the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, Poland. Much remains to be done to ensure that efforts to address climate change meet the current challenge and create and secure quality jobs and economic opportunities worldwide.

December 13, 2018

It has been two years since the Paris Agreement entered into force and made history. Presently, 184 parties have signed or ratified the agreement. The BlueGreen Alliance, representing many of the United States’ biggest and most impactful labor unions and environmental organizations, applauded this landmark deal as the foundation for ensuring that the idea of addressing climate change is synonymous with creating and securing quality jobs and economic opportunities worldwide. This week in Katowice, we join advocates and delegates from across the world to ensure that the promise of this agreement is met.

Solving climate change can and should simultaneously build resilient infrastructure, improve community health and safety, safeguard wildlife, and strengthen and create economic opportunities and sustainability for all citizens.

Through effective implementation of the Paris Agreement, we have an opportunity to achieve critical progress towards securing our environmental and economic future. This will be determined, at least in part, by what countries include in the “rulebook” for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which countries have agreed to finalize at COP24.

Already much has happened during the first week at the COP, both concerning and hopeful.

Trump Administration Continues to Turn its Back on Science

This COP is occurring just months after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, which demonstrated that we must take immediate action on climate if we are to avoid serious, long-lasting, and deadly climate impacts. In the wake of this alarming report, the Trump administration over the weekend challenged the report, which was written by climate change experts from around the world.Three other nations joined the U.S. in blocking efforts to “welcome” the report—Kuwait, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

This comes on the heels of a series of extreme weather events here in the U.S., from multiple, devastating wildfires on the west coast, to destructive hurricanes pounding the southeastern states and knocking out power for millions of residents.

Despite President Trump’s complete abdication of U.S. federal responsibility on climate action, we continue to see real impacts of climate change here in the U.S. and around the world. We also continue to see action at the state and local level and an outpouring of innovative leaders announcing new and revitalized efforts to fight climate change. Across the country, Americans continue to reaffirm their desire for comprehensive solutions to address the threat of climate change that put workers and communities first.

For these are other reasons, it was particularly urgent that ministers and other officials arriving in Katowice for this second week of the COP came with a renewed sense of urgency to ensure that COP24 produces real results, particularly in terms of the Paris rulebook. However, much work remains to be done with only two days of the COP remaining.

What We’re Watching For

The BlueGreen Alliance believes that to build a future with a healthy environment and equitable economy, the following five principals must be addressed by the UNFCCC. As nations wrap up  work this week in Poland, here’s what we’re watching for:

Long-Term Ambition: Nations must ramp up ambition to meet the scientific reality.

COP24 must ensure a path towards increased ambition. In Paris, countries agreed to organize a “facilitative dialogue” at the COP this December in order to take stock of the collective pledges put forward by countries and their progress towards achieving the agreement’s goals. This process is called the “Talanoa Dialogue” and took place this Tuesday and Wednesday with world leaders meeting to discuss current progress. Many countries used this process to push for increased ambition in line with what the science demands and deliver concrete emission-reduction initiatives before 2020. Unfortunately, little concrete action came out of the dialogue. It is essential that the Paris rulebook facilitate an increase in ambition.

Just Transition: Governments must operationalize the Paris Agreement’s commitment to Just Transition.

The Paris Agreement, for the first time, recognized the impact of a transition to clean energy on workers and communities, and promised a regime that ensures no communities or workers are left behind. Last week, the Polish presidency introduced the Silesia Declaration to drive agreement on a Just Transition for workers and the creation of decent work and quality jobs. Today, more than 55 nations have signed on. We urge all countries at the COP to support this resolution.

COP 24 included a number of side events focused on Just Transition, including this one hosted by the International Trade Union Confederation.

A transition to the clean energy economy requires the resources, policies, and priorities needed to retool our nation; create family-sustaining union jobs; strengthen and grow no- and low-carbon sectors—including energy efficiency, renewable energy and industrial carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) applications; and ensure our communities are healthy and safe. If done right, addressing climate change can be one of the best ways to further develop the economy.

The wealth of this nation, and indeed the global economy, has been built on the contributions of millions of workers in carbon-intensive industries. These workers should not be cast aside or forced to choose between a better environment and economic stability.

Governments must operationalize the commitment of the Paris Agreement to a Just Transition by incorporating just transition policies to protect workers and communities into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Parties must also continue to work on this issue through the Response Measures Forum. The COP decision must include Just Transition and encourage its continued work under the Response Measures Forum.

Verification and Transparency: Leaders must continue to lay out the parameters and needs related to verification and transparency.

The Paris rulebook must be robust and effective and provide transparency and accountability mechanisms that make the agreement work. Successfully addressing climate change requires bold, collective global action. No single country or region can meet this challenge alone. Each country must put forward its best efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, and developed countries must support developing countries as they move forward on both mitigation efforts and adaptation activities. This collective action cannot work unless each country’s actions are implemented properly and transparently, and includes the necessary means for measurement, verification, and review (MRV).

The BlueGreen Alliance has long argued that an effective global climate regime must be grounded in transparency. Implementation of the Paris Agreement must include strong provisions for biennial reporting and review, so that we can regularly assess the progress of all countries towards their commitments and hold them accountable for achievement of their environmental objectives. This level of review and transparency is an absolute necessity if we are to tackle global climate change in a fair and comprehensive way. It is also vital to ensuring a level playing field for globally competitive manufacturing while ensuring we are meeting the greatest environmental challenge of our time.

Finance: COP24 must ensure climate finance commitments are achieved.  

Governments must live up to their promise to mobilize USD $100 billion annually by 2020. A 2018 report found that finance provided and mobilized by developed countries exceeded $70 billion in 2016, while the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s more conservative approach found that such financing reached just under $57 billion last year. If we are to achieve the goal of $100 billion annually by 2020, governments must increase their commitments to financing.

The BlueGreen Alliance fully supports efforts to mobilize financial support for developing nations, which will help to achieve two core goals. The first is to help support a low-carbon economic development model for developing and emerging economies, including deployment of clean energy and energy-efficient technologies. The second goal is to provide international adaptation assistance. Vulnerable communities across the world are already being impacted by climate change, and even if we take much more aggressive action to limit the further buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, these impacts will continue to increase over the next several decades. As we move forward with job-creating solutions to the climate crisis, we must simultaneously take action to help the world’s most vulnerable communities adapt to the unavoidable impacts of extreme climate-related events, temperature increases, and sea level rise.

COP24 must deliver certainty on how this climate finance will be mobilized and must also ensure that funds are committed to financing Just Transition measures at the national, sectoral, and regional level. Little progress has been made so far.

Revenue: A comprehensive plan for raising necessary revenue must be outlined and consider innovative financing options.

Revenue must be generated for investments in technologies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, a proper transition for workers and communities, support for manufacturing industries, and vital financing for developing nations. In addition to directly putting a cap and price on carbon pollution, there are various innovative financing options that can be used to raise revenue, such as public and private bonds, debt forgiveness, the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, and adoption of a global Financial Transaction Tax (FTT).