Fossil fuel lobby fails to dent support for climate action

M. Ramesh | | Updated on: Dec 11, 2018
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COP24 unlikely to see desired results, but players outside negotiating rooms keep hopes alive

With just days to go before the curtains fall on the 24th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), the chances of the two-week-long climate negotiations achieving the full desired outcome appear bleak, mainly due to sharp red lines between the developed and developing countries.

However, outside the negotiation rooms, the COP24 is seeing a groundswell of support for climate action from corporates, banks, investors and green lobbyists.

In parallel, there are forces pulling in the opposite direction – the pro-fossil fuel lobbyists and climate deniers – but their voice is heard only feebly against the roar of climate action supporters.

An early indication of the complexities that lay ahead was received at the end of the first week of talks, when four oil-producing countries – the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – put the brakes on a move by all other countries to ‘welcome’ a recent UN scientific report.

The four countries insisted that it was enough for the conference to take ‘note’ of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that dealt with the effects of rise in global temperature by 1.5 degrees.

Though not particularly important, it seemed like a bad augury.

Negotiating the rules

On Monday, negotiators split hairs over the forming of rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, on aspects such as common standards for measuring countries’ climate action.

They wanted to be able to frame the rules so that transparency in reporting actions touching upon aspects such as how stringent the reporting norms should be, reporting time-frames and provision of finance could be determined.

Also on the agenda is for countries to declare what more they would do to fight climate change.

But as of Tuesday, the chances of evolution of a full Paris Rulebook seemed slim.

Experts, such as Chandra Bhushan of the Centre for Science and Environment, believed that there could, at best, be some truncated agreement.

“It is clear that they are progressing towards a weak and incomplete rulebook for the Paris Agreement,” Bhushan said.

Some others are less pessimistic, and cite the negotiations at Paris in 2015 to stress that the position four days before the close of the conference, however slender it may be, is not quite a definitive indicator of the outcome. Still, given the sticky issues such as finance, it does look like the negotiations for the rulebook as well as enhanced action will continue into the next year, and perhaps even beyond. But the encouraging part of COP24 is the action outside negotiation halls.

Initiatives taken

Several companies that are part of the ‘We Mean Business Coalition’ are in Katowice to proclaim their commitment to climate action.

IKEA, for example, has declared that by 2030 all the energy it consumes would be green, and is investing heavily in wind and solar energy.

Orsted, the Danish electricity utility, will phase out all fossil fuel-based generation, and go fully wind, solar or biomass.

At an ‘India huddle’, the Mahindra group spoke about its past, and proposed efforts to reduce CO2 build-up in the atmosphere.

It has, for instance, planted 15 million trees in the last 10 years.

On Monday, 415 signatories managing $32 trillion in assets will make the largest-ever intervention from investors, and urge all governments at the UN Climate Conference in Poland to “update and strengthen nationally-determined contributions to meet the emissions reduction goal of the Paris Agreement, starting the process now in 2018 and completing it no later than 2020”.

Not all efforts applauded

When the US held an event on ‘clean coal technologies’ in its pavilion, it was roundly booed.

The proponents of clean coal technologies were unable to answer questions as to what technology will allow coal to be burnt without carbon dioxide emissions.

Lord Nicholas Stern of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and Environment noted here that in the next to decades, the world economy will double while emissions need to be reduced by over 30 per cent.

Hope for that seems to spring more from outside the negotiating rooms than within.

Published on December 11, 2018

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