To hear Canada's environment minister, Catherine Mckenna, tell it, the Katowice climate summit was a great success.
It wasn't. It was the opposite of success. It was a failure. And, unless the global leadership comes to grips with that very quickly it may turn out to be a critical failure.
A rulebook. That's what our politicians achieved at Katowice, a rulebook.
Johan Rockstrom, director designate at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “My biggest concern is that the UN talks failed to align ambitions with science. We continue to follow a path that will take us to a very dangerous 3-4C warmer world within this century. Extreme weather events hit people across the planet already, at only 1C of warming.”
Nicholas Stern, the former World Bank chief economist and author of a seminal review of the economics of climate change, said: “It is clear that the progress we are making is inadequate, given the scale and urgency of the risks we face. The latest figures show carbon dioxide emissions are still rising. A much more attractive, clean and efficient path for economic development and poverty reduction is in our hands.”
The two-week-long UN talks in Poland ended with clarity over the “rulebook” that will govern how the Paris agreement of 2015 is put into action, but the crucial question of how to lift governments’ targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was left unanswered.
Since [the 2015 Paris climate summit], the warnings have grown clearer and scientists have eliminated the possibility that the global warming observed in recent decades has been due to natural forces. It is a manmade problem arising from the use of fossil fuels, which has poured the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
On current national emissions-cutting targets, the world would reach more than 3C of warming, scientists say. Two months ago the world’s leading body of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, found that even 1.5C of warming would cause sea level rises, coral reef die-off, extinction of species and droughts, floods, storms and heatwaves that would threaten the world’s stability.
Levels of warming greater than that would devastate parts of the globe, wiping out agricultural productivity, melting the Arctic ice cap and rendering many areas uninhabitable.What's most infuriating is that politicians like Mckenna act as though time is not a problem, much less a critical problem. They're wrong, it is. Best case scenario: we have until 2030 to cut global carbon emissions by half if we're to have a chance of avoiding runaway global warming.
Cutting carbon emissions by half in less than a dozen years won't be easy. It will be very, very, extremely hard to achieve. It will require a major restructuring of national economies. Sacrifices will be necessary and they won't be borne equally. Some will have to give much more ground than others. Sorry, Alberta. New clean-energy infrastructure will have to be designed, constructed and put in place in a breathtakingly brief interval. A dozen years is nothing.
In the meantime we also have to address numerous other environmental problems just to keep the foundation intact so we can try to tackle climate change. These are Rockstrom's "nine planetary boundaries" we must not cross.
As for Mckenna:
"Today demonstrates that multilateralism works to tackle a clear global problem—climate change. Three years ago almost to the day, some 200 countries came together to land an ambitious Paris Agreement. Over the last few weeks, the world gathered once again in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) where our team worked hard throughout the negotiations to find common ground between developed and developing countries.I hope that gives you hope and confidence.
"I am pleased countries around the world came together to agree to rules for transparently reporting how all countries are fulfilling their commitments to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. To increase our ambition for climate action, we need clear and transparent rules."