The COP24 in Katowice, Poland, was an opportunity to design and activate a global process to secure human liberty and prosperity. While it was not a meeting to solve all problems at once or to end climate change today, the defined outcome — the Katowice Climate Package [PDF] — provides some clear guidelines for nations to work toward a climate-smart future.

While progress on each varies, the following are areas of action embedded in the COP24 outcome:

  1. Coherent 2019 mobilization of the Paris Agreement Work Programme
  2. Expansion of the field of financing for climate-smart activities
  3. Acting on Talanoa inputs (IPCC / Resilience Intel) and outcomes (Talanoa Call for Action)
  4. Inputs into and reports out of the High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance
  5. Expanded emphasis on catalyzing new business models for better low-carbon food and water supply sustainability
  6. Alignment and trading of fiscal policies and mitigation outcomes
  7. A compromise between the US and China that allows for more common accounting standards
  8. A call for expanded public engagement in the design and implementation of national climate policies
Ice-melt in the Arctic and Antarctic is accelerating. As temperatures warm and open water takes up more space, heating of the atmosphere and ocean accelerates. The IPCC finds Arctic warming, which accelerates global warming, is 2-3 times higher than the global average.

IPCC / science: The Katowice Climate Package recognizes with gratitude the work of the IPCC, in producing the Special Report on the impacts of 1.5ºC warming or above.

  • That report was mandated by the Paris Agreement, and its science has already been approved by the national governments whose diplomats make up the COP.
  • So, whatever the language diplomats would have chosen to recognize the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, the science is done, and the new global legal standard is set.
  • The 1992 Convention mandates avoiding “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
  • That upper temperature limit for warming under this standard is now 1.5ºC, so all national policies should start to work by that standard.

Finance: We are now seeing an expansion of the field of climate-related finance, beyond the dedicated additional public-sector finance that has long been the focus of global talks.

  • Climate bonds and green bonds are now the fastest growing segment of the qualified, accredited climate finance portfolio, globally.
  • Cities are deploying climate-related finance, including bonds for infrastructure and adaptation, and adding their capacity to national totals.
  • New York City’s climate fund is $20 billion, and Oslo has instituted a Climate Budget that is agreed every year along with its overall standard operating budget.
  • And, we are now seeing the expansion of both new specialized financial instruments and standard investments that align with Paris Agreement and other climate-related goals.

Cities: The shortest path to robust, multilevel financing of enhanced climate action is through open consultation with stakeholders, communities, non-national jurisdictions, and the private sector. The 1992 Convention calls for public participation in the design and implementation of climate policy; the Paris Agreement and the 17th Sustainable Development Goal make room for “non-state actors” aligning in partnership with or in support of stronger national action.

Negotiators worked long hours in many smaller negotiating rooms, to hash out details of consensus decisions relating to long-term finance and funding for adaptation. A vital idea hidden in plain sight seemed always to be: all finance should eventually be climate-aligned.

The COP24 specifically “Recalls Article 4, paragraph 13, of the Paris Agreement, which provides that … Parties shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting,” in the design, implementation, and accounting of their national commitments and actions. Integration of insights and actions from local and regional actors will make it easier to meet this mandate.

Stakeholders’ voices: One of the great unsung breakthroughs of the COP24 was the activation of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform.

  • The purpose of this new institution is to ensure that locally relevant and traditional knowledge provide real-time ground-truthing of national and international policy and of guidance from remote scientific observation.
  • It is also a vital part of the work of making sure affected communities can be heard and negative feedbacks from rapid economic and technological change avoided.

The Katowice Climate Package, building on the experience of the Talanoa Dialogue process suggests a future dynamic in which national climate policies (NDCs attached to the Paris Agreement) evolve in line with constant, multilevel consultation with leaders and stakeholders. A national policy can be made stronger when the most advanced and experienced actors at non-national levels of authority are empowered to set the standard.

Carbon pricing: Much reported is the move by Brazil, on the final scheduled day of negotiations, to withhold consensus until certain demands were met regarding the agreed structure for carbon offset trading markets.

  • These are referred to in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as “ITMO” (internationally transferred mitigation outcomes).
  • Polluters can purchase offset credits, to guarantee some form of carbon sink (a protected patch of forest to absorb the corresponding amount of emissions, for instance).
  • That “mitigation outcome” or “emissions reduction” can be counted only once, and for only one country.
  • Article 6 controversies have been essentially pushed back to be dealt with during the next year of intersessional and annual negotiations.

National commitments: While advocates and diplomats from many perspectives have argued the COP24 needed to produce hard targets for increased ambition, along with strict uniform procedures for adjusting national climate action plans (NDCs), the Katowice climate conference has recognized some of the hard realities:

  • the transition to low-carbon standards in all sectors must accelerate;
  • some communities will be affected negatively, and just transition planning is integral to overall success;
  • national governments cannot do all of the planning, funding, or implementation by themselves;
  • economy-wide national climate action plans need to emerge as NDCs are upgraded for post-2020 implementation;
  • while some countries are being asked to “over-achieve”, and differentiated responsibilities have real weight, no nation can come out ahead by underachieving.

Those nations that work against progress, or withdraw from participation, or “backslide” on their commitments, will see a corresponding depreciation in their geopolitical influence. Trade negotiations will be affected, as well as security arrangements, as costs to the rest of the world mount from delayed action.

In our own press event, we argued that Earth science, stakeholders’ voices, Earth Jurisprudence, and carbon dividends are aligning to point to a future of 100% climate-smart finance.

We are now in a post-Paris implementation phase, where universal overachievement on all fronts must be the guiding principle. The Katowice Climate Package does not mandate or guarantee that we will succeed in doing this, but it does set some rules of the road by which nations can more effectively negotiate optimal transition pathways.

Science is giving us some hard deadlines. We must be well on our way to reducing overall global emissions by 2030. If we look out to the wider landscape of sustainable development action, through the 17 SDGs — as a map of macro-critical (economy-shaping) action areas — we can make out a roadmap for integrated climate-smart policy, finance, and action.

2019 should see, as evidence that we are moving in the right direction:

  • a rapid expansion in overall climate-aligned finance;
  • a rapid expansion of industrial and micro-scale clean energy technologies;
  • major local, national and international commitments to climate-smart infrastructure investment;
  • participatory policy-enhancement processes at all levels, to inform national plans;
  • integration across parallel and intersecting climate-related development priorities (upstream actions that input into the sustainable ocean economy, for instance).
At the COP24, the world’s nations gathered to listen to and ask questions about the findings of the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5ºC Warming. It was a sobering plenary session, in which negotiators seemed to be awed by the task put to them, to all of us. We must innovate more rapidly than at any time in human history, in all sectors in all places, to get up to speed.

Climate Congress: The Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Convention is growing into an inclusive global congress, with annual and semi-annual convenings, where nearly 200 nations, dozens of UN agencies, and thousands of observer organizations work together toward a future of responsible climate stewardship. The COP25 in Chile next year will have the opportunity to align local, national, and global ambition with the insights gained from the IPCC’s Special Report, to ensure inclusive localized climate action builds real-life economic value in people’s everyday lives.

This is no small task, but we must bring no-nonsense optimism to a worldwide collaborative competitive process. Resilience is survival. Value in all sectors depends on sustainability across the full spectrum of human need and capability. The mandate from Katowice is: Align better, and go faster.

Background Briefs

  1. Talanoa input (CCEN): Make the Talanoa Open Process Permanent
  2. Talanoa input (Resilience Intel 1): 100% Climate-Smart Finance by 2038
  3. Acceleration Dialogues: The Path to 100% Climate-Smart Finance
  4. Guardian: Declare Energy Independence with Carbon Dividends
  5. Geoversiv: Highest-Value Climate Action is Economy-Wide
  6. Global Climate Action Summit: The Resilience Intel Charter
  7. Talanoa input (Resilience Intel 2): Mapping Earth-Systems Value to Action
  8. G20 Ministerial Guidance: Secure Future Value to Build Wealth Today
  9. COP24 Guidance: The Smarter Path to Human Freedom
  10. CCL Press Release: Respond to French Fuel-tax Backlash by Giving Revenue back to the People