For a while, it was feared that the world climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, would end in total disagreement as four nations – the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait – refused to sign the original closing statement “welcoming” a report of a United Nations-backed Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The IPCC scientists warned of catastrophic events that could happen if urgent and radical steps are not taken to slash carbon emissions by 2030. The proposed final statement “welcomed” this report, but the four nations, all major producers of oil and other fossil-fuels used in generating power around the world, would only agree to simply “note” it.
They finally agreed on a statement expressing gratitude to the scientists who prepared the report and invited countries to use the findings from their study. The issue of trading of emission allowances in “carbon markets” aimed at encouraging countries and companies to limit their carbon emissions was put off for another year.
But the individual countries attending the conference reiterated their commitment to carry out their nationally determined efforts to cut down on their carbon emissions as their contributions to the overall goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. They agreed to provide information on their progress in carrying out these nationally determined contributions, which they had submitted at the Paris conference three years ago.
This year’s Watowice agreement also spelled out guidelines for the establishment of new finance targets to help developing countries suffering the most from climate change. The Philippines is among the island nations most affected by the rising sea levels and increasingly fierce storms arising from a warmer Pacific Ocean.
The Watowice conference was supposed to deliver on the goals of the 2015 Paris Conference on Climate Change. The various nations did report individual programs which Michal Kurtyka of Poland, president of this year’s conference, lauded as “a thousand little steps forward together.” He said at the close of the conference that “All nations can leave Watowice with a sense of pride, knowing that their efforts have paid off.”
But so much more could have been achieved if the four nations questioning the scientists’ report had joined the rest of the world in a general planet-wide agreement to hold back the many practices around the world that are raising world temperatures, melting glaciers and raising ocean levels, and generating fiercer typhoons and hurricanes