December 15, 2018

World Leaders Agree to Common Paris Rulebook, Must Respond to Scientists’ Clarion Call for Greater Climate Ambition

Statements by Alden Meyer and Rachel Cleetus

KATOWICE, POLAND (December 15, 2018)—The United Nations’ annual climate talks, this year known as COP24, aimed at accomplishing three main things: agreeing on a robust rulebook to implement the Paris Agreement, acknowledging the need for nations to raise ambition of their emission reduction pledges by 2020, and reaffirm and enhance countries’ climate finance commitments and increase predictability of those commitments.

Below is a statement by Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and one of the foremost experts on the UN climate change negotiations on the outcome of the talks.

“In Katowice, ministers and negotiators adopted a common rulebook on how countries will formulate and report on their national emissions reduction pledges and move forward on adaptation, technology, finance and other important provisions of the Paris Agreement. While some rulebook elements still need to be fleshed out, the agreement lays a solid foundation for implementation and strengthening of the historic accord reached in Paris three years ago. It could also help facilitate U.S. re-entry into the Paris Agreement by a future presidential administration. 

“The recent IPCC Special Report on 1.5 Degrees represents a wake-up call from the world’s top scientists, making clear that we face a planetary emergency unless we take profound and rapid action to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases. While the United States and three other major oil-producing countries prevented the urgency of action from being fully reflected in the final decision, the vast majority of countries indicated they have heard the dire warning from scientists.

“World leaders must come to next September’s climate summit in New York being organized by UN Secretary-General António Guterres with a clear indication of how they intend to substantially raise their climate ambition by 2020. This will be the acid test of how serious they are in their professed commitment to averting a climate catastrophe.

“President Trump continues to question the consensus of the world’s scientists on the urgent need for climate action, and is taking a wrecking ball to federal clean energy policies. In sharp contrast, we were inspired by the presence in Katowice of U.S. state officials, mayors, businesses, indigenous leaders, religious community members, youth activists and others who support bold climate action; they represent the true face of America on climate change. In the wake of recent hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other climate-related extreme weather events, a clear majority of Americans support a rapid transition away from fossil fuels towards a clean, renewable energy future, as is needed to avert even worse and more costly climate impacts.”

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, policy director in the Climate and Energy Program and lead economist at UCS.

“In Katowice, world leaders failed to adequately address the needs of people suffering from climate change right now, including small island nations and even some U.S. communities who face existential threats. The latest IPCC report confirms that climate change is here and now, impacts are only going to get worse, and current national commitments are nowhere near what is needed to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees, as countries agreed to in Paris.

“Despite this ever-present crisis, global warming emissions have risen for the second year in a row and nations continue to rely heavily on and even promote fossil fuels. There was clear recognition in Katowice that the world needs to get on a low-carbon pathway as soon as possible to meet the steep, near-term emission cuts the IPCC report indicated are needed by 2030. 

“Once again, developed countries failed to provide assurances that they would make sufficient, predictable funding available for least developed nations to help them cope with climate impacts, including the loss and damage they already face, as well as ramp up low-carbon technologies.

“The barely adequate outcome in Katowice means there’s much work ahead to ensure countries live up to their responsibilities to put more ambitious action on the table by 2020. Every fraction of a degree avoided matters. Children around the world, including those who inspired us by their climate strikes this week, will hold countries accountable to do their homework and come prepared to ace the exam on robust climate action.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.