What came out of the COP24 international climate negotiations
The latest round of climate negotiations (COP24) in Poland just wrapped up and Adelia Hallett, our climate advocate, breaks down what it all means. The short version is that the latest agreement agrees on ‘how’ to count emissions, but not on the ‘what’, that is, the actual target we need to meet in order to protect nature and ourselves from catastrophic climate change.
Agreeing on a common rulebook that shows how the Paris Agreement will be implemented is an important step forward, because it will mean there’s an international standard for accounting for emissions (an aspect that is harder than it seems).
Now for the bad news. There was no firm commitment to keeping warming to no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. This was largely because of opposition from the United States, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and some other oil-producing nations.
Worse still, countries won’t reassess their 2030 emissions reduction targets until 2020, but that’s the year emissions would need to peak by if we are to keep warming to below 1.5 degrees. Global emissions are rising again, and are not expected to peak until 2030, which would result in warming of around 4 degrees or more by the end of the century. Even if current 2030 targets are met (and at the moment that looks unlikely), we are looking at 3 degrees of warming by 2100.
Even at 1.5 degrees of warming, nature will take a hammering, and the impacts will be roughly twice as bad at 2 degrees of warming. It could be much worse than this if feedback loops are triggered, which scientists say is looking increasingly likely at less than 2 degrees of warming.
New Zealand’s current 2030 target is to cut emissions by less than 9 percent below where they are now. That is consistent with warming of 3 degrees by the end of the century (if everybody had the same target as us that’s what would happen). What we need to do cut emissions by about 60 percent by 2030 to stay below 1.5 degrees.