After two weeks of discordant and emotional negotiations, the nations of the world agreed Saturday night on a set of rules meant to help curb global warming.
But scientists and even the negotiators themselves know the so-called “Paris Rulebook” won’t be enough on its own to stop carbon pollution from reaching critical levels.
Countries would have to do far more to curb fossil fuel use and deforestation to avoid the droughts, superstorms, deadly heat waves and coastal floods associated with global warming.
This rulebook is supposed to put into motion the Paris Agreement on climate change, a landmark 2015 accord that the US Trump administration has promised to abandon.
After fraught and much-delayed talks at the COP24 climate change conference here in Polish coal country, more than 190 countries agreed to the rules. They punted, however, on a critical but complicated issue involving how countries trade and account for certain pollution. Brazil nearly blocked the process amid concerns that its proposals would lead to “double counting” and, essentially, cheating, according to observers and a senior negotiator involved in the discussions.
That issue will have to be taken up at a later date in 2019.
Ministers also did not agree to emphatically embrace the latest climate science, which stunned some attendees. Countries reached a “compromise” statement in which they welcomed the publication of an alarming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In order to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming, the IPCC says carbon pollution must be cut almost in half by 2030, less than 12 years away, and then reach “net zero” by mid-century. That would require a massive reworking of the global energy and transport systems, experts said. The Paris Agreement is meant to help avoid that level of warming by creating a sort of peer pressure system that encourages countries to abandon dirty energy sources like coal, oil and natural gas, which already have contributed to 1 degree of warming. The pledges that countries have made as part of the agreement, however, put the world on track for about 3 degrees of warming by 2100, according to Climate Action Tracker, an independent research effort.