Credit: ESA/A.Gerst - Creative Commons

Eleventh hour climate hope at Katowice talks

From fires to flooding and droughts to deforestation, the impact of climate change is already affecting people, the planet and livelihoods everywhere. But an eleventh hour declaration in the final days of climate talks in Poland could be a sign that all is not lost.

Governments from around the world are in Katowice, Poland for two weeks of UN talks to agree on rules to make the landmark 2015 Paris climate deal a reality. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the negotiations have so far been a failure and the talks have also been widely slated for being sponsored by coal companies.

But last night 26 governments and the EU’s representative at the talks – Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete – made a commitment to increase their climate targets by 2020 in response to the alarming findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change’s impact is more severe than was previously thought.

The IPCC scientists said that “far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are essential to keep the world under 1.5 degrees of global warming.

Campaigners welcomed the declaration, with Wendel Trio, the Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe saying that the “spirit of Paris is back”.

The Paris climate agreement was brokered in 2015 and governments made the landmark commitment to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C and to aim to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.  Now the aim of the Katowice talks is to get down to the nitty-gritty and for countries to make solid commitments on how they will make the Paris agreement a reality.

Trio said:

“The statement will boost greater ambition at the crunch time of these so far underwhelming talks. We welcome the fact that many European countries take the IPCC report seriously and want to scale up action to fight climate change.”

Trio added that “for the EU this must mean a commitment to significantly increase its 2030 target by 2020, even beyond the 55% reduction some Member States and the European Parliament are calling for” and for countries that have not yet signed up to the ‘higher ambition coalition’ to “stop ignoring the science”.

Before they put on their ‘out of office’ for the Christmas break, EU governments must submit a 10-year ‘energy and climate’ plan to the European Commission – a so-called ‘National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP)containing the targets,  policies and measures they will put in place to support the shift to a low carbon and resilient economy.

Roland JoebstlSenior Policy Officer for Energy and Climate at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:

“A net-zero economy is essential to avoid climate breakdown. We can slash the waste of energy, move to renewables and a achieve a circular economy as part of making our society climate resilient. Ministers have a moral duty to  up ambition and put forward climate plans that are in line with net-zero – time is, literally, running out.