When delegates adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement to widespread cheers and excitement, it was clear that further details needed to be negotiated on how the agreement would be implemented transparently and fairly for all.
Countries set a deadline for themselves to complete these negotiations on the implementation guidelines in 2018 at COP24.
Against the backdrop of rising global emissions and multiplying signs of climate change such as wild fires, droughts and storms, countries began negotiating in 2016.
“Recognizing the urgency, governments overcame difficult political and complex technical issues to agree the Katowice climate package at COP24,” said the UNs Climate Chief, Patricia Espinosa.
“The Katowice outcome is a breakthrough that all governments can be proud of! It strengthens the Paris Agreement and it opens the doors for the implementation of climate action across the globe,” she underlined.
The package sets out the essential procedures and mechanisms that will make the Paris Agreement operational. The successful adoption of well-crafted implementation guidelines promises to build greater trust and to strengthen international cooperation on one of the greatest challenges of our times: transitioning to a low-emissions, climate-resilient world.
The Paris Agreement sets the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if we are to limit warming to 1.5°C we will need to lower our CO2 emissions by about 45% by 2030 (compared to 2010 levels). Even limiting global warming to 2°C will require nothing less than transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy by the middle of this century – only several decades from now.
The implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement respect the different capabilities and socio-economic realities of each country while providing the foundation for ever-increasing ambition with respect to climate action.
They establish an effective international system for promoting and tracking progress while empowering countries to build national systems for implementing the Agreement. Functioning together, these systems will enable countries to transparently contribute their share of action for tackling the global challenge of climate change.
“The Katowice climate package agreed at COP24 provides the details that are needed to make the Paris Agreement operational. Preparing for its full implementation at the national level now needs to be a priority,” said Ms. Espinosa.
“All evidence from the past 10 years points to clear and overwhelming social and economic benefits of climate action. The full implementation of the agreement at the national level means that countries and non-state actors alike can fully capitalize on these benefits as they enter a new era of accelerated climate action,” she added.
The Katowice outcome is a complex package, achieved through in-depth technical discussions and political compromise and containing operational guidance on:
- the information about domestic mitigation and other climate goals and activities that governments will provide in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs);
- how to communicate about efforts to adapt to climate impacts;
- the rules for functioning of the Transparency Framework, which will show to the world what countries are doing about climate change;
- establishment of a committee to facilitate implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote compliance with the obligations undertaken under the Agreement;
- how to conduct the Global Stocktake of overall progress towards the aims of the Paris Agreement;
- how to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology;
- how to provide advance information on financial support to developing countries and the process for establishing new targets on finance from 2025 onwards.
The rest of this article takes a closer look at key elements of the Katowice climate package.
The Paris Agreement sets the long-term goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. Achieving this global aim will require each country to take action.
Reflecting its “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities,” each government can update or submit its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), which describe its climate goals and activities, in particular those relating to mitigation.
Each NDC will be updated every five years and should demonstrate increased ambition over the previous one. The Katowice package provides detailed guidance on how NDCs are to be presented.
This guidance is to be applied to the second NDC to be submitted by 2025. If a country voluntarily chooses to do so, it may also apply these to its first NDC. Many first NDCs have already been submitted although governments agreed to officially do so by 2020. The agreed guidance describes the contents of and approach to the mitigation goals and activities, thus ensuring comparability from NDC to NDC.
The guidelines also address mitigation co-benefits (for example, resulting from economic diversification), the provision of capacity-building support to developing countries for producing their NDCs, the use by all Parties of a common timeframe for communicating NDCs as from 2025 and the negative impacts of response measures on certain countries and sectors.
Importantly, the guidance also includes the modalities for the operation and use of a public NDC registry, for which the secretariat is developing a prototype for the Parties’ consideration. The prototype will be based on a current interim NDC registry. It will be made available together with the new Adaptation Communications registry through one portal with two parts.
These guidelines will be reviewed and if necessary updated during the course of the next decade.
In addition to mitigation, the implementation guidelines provide clarity about how to track efforts to enhance national capacities for adapting to climate change impacts.
This is essential because, even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to completely stop tomorrow, the climate will continue to change due to past emissions. The less the world succeeds in reducing future emissions, the more work it will need to do to adapt to impacts and the more critical the situation will be for the most vulnerable.
Information on adaptation priorities, needs, plans and actions are to be presented through “adaptation communications” as well as through the NDCs. The implementation guidelines present a non-binding list of elements that can be included in these documents.
The secretariat is developing a prototype of a public adaptation registry for Parties to review; the registry will enable Parties to learn from others and to explore good practices. It will be made available together with the prototype NDC registry through one portal with two parts: one for adaptation communications and one for NDCs.
Other elements of the guidelines include a review of the institutions supporting adaptation under the Paris Agreement, the inclusion of adaptation in the synthesis report and other reports produced by the secretariat, and a process for considering ways to mobilize greater support for adaptation.
In a move of great importance to vulnerable countries, the Katowice conference also agreed that the Adaptation Fund, originally established under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, will now serve the Paris Agreement.
The Parties to the Paris Agreement will review the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation measures and support for adaptation in developing countries over the next few years.
By 2022, the Adaptation Committee will work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on drafting supplementary guidance on communicating information on adaptation. The Parties will take stock of the adaptation guidance in 2025 and, if necessary, revise it.
A growing number of countries are already suffering significant loss and damage from climate impacts, and this damage is expected to worsen. Parties to the Paris Agreement will use the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage to assist the most vulnerable countries to cope with these consequences.
Under the new implementation guidelines, the most vulnerable countries can report about the climate-related damages and losses they have suffered through the section on impacts and adaptation in the Transparency Framework (see below).
Actions to address these challenges, projections of future losses and damages, and information on what kind of support is needed can also be included.
All of this information will be assessed every five years when Parties conduct the Global Stocktake of progress towards implementing the Paris Agreement (see below).
The Paris Agreement recognizes that developed countries should continue to take the lead in mobilizing finance to support climate action by developing countries. The Katowice climate package provides some important details on climate finance going forward.
1. Confirmation of climate finance mobilization
Developed countries have pledged to mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020, and through to 2025, for both adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries. At COP24, a small handful of developed countries stepped up with pledges towards this goal.
Many developing countries need support to contribute climate actions towards the global effort. Moreover, reaching the USD 100 billion goal is also essential for confidence-building among countries and a greater effort towards it is essential.
2. Importance of the roles of the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility in supporting developing countries.
Katowice stressed the urgency for pledges to replenish the Green Climate Fund in 2019, as well the role of the Global Environment Facility. This is particularly important in relation to the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency.
Climate finance that serves the Paris Agreement post-2020
3. Arrangements for providing predictability and clarity on climate finance
To enhance predictability and clarity of climate finance, developed countries will submit biennial communications on expected levels of climate finance. These will contain both quantitative and qualitative information.
The submission of these communications will begin in 2020. Other Parties that wish to provide resources can communicate such information biennially and on a voluntary basis.
The secretariat will post these communications on a dedicated on-line portal.
Starting in 2021, the secretariat will prepare a compilation and synthesis report on what has been communicated, which will inform the Global Stocktake.
A high-level ministerial dialogue on climate finance will be convened every two years.
Like the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Fund, Adaptation Fund will support developing countries and serve the Paris Agreement.
5. Financial goal beyond 2025
The setting of a new collective quantified goal from the floor of USD 100 billion per year will be initiated at the COP in 2020.
6. Determining needs
The COP decided that the Standing Committee on Finance will from 2020 report on the determination of support needs of developing countries related to the implementation of the Convention and the Paris Agreement
7. Making mainstream finance flows consistent with the Paris Agreement.
To ensure that low-emissions and sustainable development pathways become the new norm, financial flows have to be consistent with low emissions and climate resilient development.
As a result, the COP decided that the Standing Committee include this important aspect as part of its biennial assessment and overview of climate finance flows starting from 2020. This work will feed to Global Stocktake.
Many countries need greater access to green technologies for reducing emissions and strengthening resilience. Clean-energy and other climate-friendly technologies are essential for slowing, stopping and then reversing climate change.
The Technology Mechanism established under the Climate Change Convention will play an important role in promoting and facilitating enhanced action on technology development and transfer. This is essential to help countries to address the transformational changes towards climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, as envisioned in the Paris Agreement
In addition, the Technology Framework (established under the Paris Agreement) will provide an overarching guidance to the Technology Mechanism to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
The framework contains five focus areas including innovation, implementation, enabling environments and support, with the active engagement of relevant stakeholders and closer collaboration between the public and private sectors.
The implementation guidelines also establish a process for assessing progress on the development and transfer of technology.
The scope and modalities for the periodic assessment was agreed to assess the effectiveness and adequacy of the support provided to the Technology Mechanism as it serves the Paris Agreement. It will also inform the Global Stocktake. The first assessment will be initiated in late 2021.
Beyond finance and technology, there is also a strong need to build the capacity of least developed and other countries to implement all aspects of the Paris Agreement. A wide range of funds and institutions is supporting capacity-building under the Agreement.
Katowice took action to strengthen the institutional support for capacity building. It launched a review of the Paris Committee on Capacity Building and invited Parties and observers to submit their views. A decision is to be adopted at COP 25.
The Paris Agreement establishes an Enhanced Transparency Framework designed to build trust and confidence that all countries are contributing their share to the global effort.
The Katowice conference fleshed out this Framework that is applicable to all countries by adopting a detailed set of procedures and guidelines that make it operational.
These guidelines define the reporting information to be provided, the technical expert review, transitional arrangements, and a “facilitative multilateral consideration of progress.”
The conference requested the Global Environment Facility to support developing country Parties in preparing their first and subsequent biennial transparency reports.
Through the detailed guidance on the reporting/review/consideration processes for the information to be submitted and by making these reports publicly available, the Enhanced Transparency Framework will make it possible to track the progress made by each country.
Tracking progress will be done by using the most recent methodologies as contained in guidelines by the IPCC. In this way, it will be possible to compare a country’s actions against its plans and ambitions as described in its NDC.
To ensure that this exercise is as robust and accurate as possible, the Parties will now develop common reporting tables for national GHG inventories, common tabular format tables for tracking progress towards NDCs and climate finance, outlines of the biennial transparency reports, and other essential components.
To facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as well as compliance with its provisions, countries established a committee for this purpose.
The committee is non-punitive and will initiate a so-called ‘consideration’ in cases where a country has not provided mandatory reports on its actions or forwarded or maintained its NDC.
The committee will consult and constructively engage Parties and aim to facilitate greater compliance through recommendations and assistance. It will consist of 12 members and 12 alternative members serving for a term of three years.
To measure the world’s collective progress towards achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, governments will conduct a Global Stocktake in 2023 and every five years thereafter.
Using the best-available science, the Stocktake will consider all aspects of the Agreement. Thematic areas will include mitigation, adaptation, financial flows, equity and means of implementation and support.
The implementation guidelines define the process of organizing and conducting the Global Stocktake more rigorously. While no one Party may be singled out, the Global Stocktake will consider information towards the agreement’s goals at a collective level. This information will include reporting under the Enhanced Transparency Framework, as well as other sources.
As remarked above, countries can also include information on loss and damage and related response measures. Inputs to the Stocktake will come not only from countries but from stakeholders, organizations and other sources.
Parties will employ a facilitated technical dialogue, a series of high-level events and other measures to advance the process and strengthen its usefulness over time.
While Katowice succeeded in finalizing the great bulk of the implementation guidelines, there are still a few outstanding issues.
Guidance on voluntary cooperation and market-based mechanisms still needs to be finalized, and there will be follow-up on a few technical details, such as the development of various reporting tables and specific technical work by various constituted bodies.
These remaining items will need proper attention throughout the year, with a few specific outcomes expected to be ready by COP 25 in Santiago de Chile.
With the Paris Agreement and its implementation guidelines in place, there is an urgent need for more action on the ground, now, today.
Then, with countries submitting their new or updated first NDCs in 2020, governments should be mindful to ensure that these NDCs will reflect the highest ambition. 2019 must not go to waste: there is no reason to delay action while the world – informed by science - is transitioning into the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.