Weaker final statement ends climate conference

Published December 20, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

e-cartoon-dec-20-2018For 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