UN climate talks set stage for humanity’s two most crucial years

(The Guardian, 17 Dec 2018) Decisions made from now to 2020 will determine to what extent Earth remains habitable

The mood was more one of relief than triumph on Sunday when the world’s governments eventually found common ground at the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

This was not just because exhausted delegates were glad to go home after negotiations that dragged on 30 hours beyond the deadline. It also reflected the harder miles and tougher battles to come over the next two years if the planet is to remain habitable.

Scientist after scientist told the conference that the decisions made by 2020 will determine whether global heating can be kept to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, after which the already apparent dangers of climate instability become far worse.

The toughest decisions, however, were pushed into the future, to a special climate summit next September called by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and the next two COP conferences – in Chile in December 2019, and then to the country chosen to host in 2020.

Katowice showed that the multilateral system of global decision-making is still alive, but under growing threat from fossil fuel interests and the nationalist politicians they fund.

Decision-making at the UN is painstakingly difficult at the best of times, because it requires a consensus among 195 nations. In Poland, 14,000 delegates took two weeks to debate the latest science and proposed policy instruments as they whittled down more than 2,800 areas of disagreement.

The result was a new global rulebook on emissions that requires nations to report every two years on their progress towardParis agreement commitments to keep temperature rises to between 1.5C and 2C.

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The Guardian, : UN climate talks set stage for humanity’s two most crucial years