Rules to ensure effective implementation of the Paris Agreement have been officially adopted. At last international society has moved to begin implementing 2020 global warming initiatives.

The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), held in Katowice, Poland, ended Dec. 15, 2018. Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015, this time about 200 member countries adopted the implementation “rulebook” for 2020. After innumerable delays, a unanimous agreement was reached on key portions of the guidelines. Chair Michał Kurtyka, Vice Minister of Environment in Poland, beamed as he banged the gavel to seal the deal.

In the final days of two weeks conference, the Japanese negotiators felt as if they were “groping through thick fog” to find a way through the opposed stances of the industrializing and industrialized nations, as both fought for advantages. The final agreement was not announced until pre-dawn on Dec. 14, the last day of the conference, and negotiators were forced to continue discussions without being able to see the overall picture, or even the final result. Nonetheless, cheers erupted when the final version was approved.

Michał Kurtyka, Vice Minister of Environment in Poland, chaired COP24 and adopted the implementation rules.
Michał Kurtyka, Vice Minister of Environment in Poland, chaired COP24 and adopted the implementation rules.

Effective implementation of the Paris Agreement assured

Implementation guidelines will define the efficacy of the Agreement. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which imposed targets for greenhouse gas reductions only on the industrialized nations, the new Agreement defines targets for all nations. These new targets, however, are optional and adjusted for individual situations and capabilities. Reports to the U.N. by signatory nations, and their review, are the keys to effective implementation.

In addition to the industrialized nations, industrializing nations such as China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, both of which combine high economic growth with emissions growth, were requested to make corresponding efforts. In response, industrializing nations instead wanted to impose tighter regulations on the industrialized ones.

In COP24 negotiations, there were also differences between the industrializing nations, but at the same time fears that differing targets could weaken the efficacy of the entire Agreement. The Japanese team, however, comments that “The final Agreement is very effective, and all nations continued the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol to adopt common rules.” The demands of the industrializing nations were whittled down a bit, ensuring that there will be significant global warming counter-measures implemented in 2020 and beyond.

The guidelines are a crucial framework for the initiative, providing guidance on what types of information should be provided by the signatory nations to the U.N. when defining their own Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), along with reports on actions taken to attain those goals and actual data on emissions and sinks.

Signatories must submit their NDCs to the U.N. within five years from 2020. Japan achieved its 2030 target as early as 2015, even before COP21, but will have to submit a new NDC in 2020. The Agreement this time defines what information must be submitted when determining the NDC, and how to monitor progress.

Environment-related non-government organizations (NGO) also praise the Agreement. Masako Konishi, Deputy Director of Conservation, Climate and Energy Project Leader at WWF Japan, comments “In principle, the common rules apply to all nations, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The determination of about 200 nations to overcome their concern with the withdrawal of the U.S. and get this Agreement signed is clear. There is no doubt that these rules will have an impact on the global economy.”

With rules to minimize climate change in place, international society now must prove how serious it is about implementing them.