[COP 24] Will the Paris Agreement go up in smoke in Katowice?

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Three years after the success of the COP21 in Paris, delegates, experts and citizens committed to the climate issue are already remembering with nostalgia the historic Parisian summit. Negotiations to reach the Paris Agreement in 2015 were certainly not easy, but it’s clear that the COP24 in Katowice, (Polish capital of coal) will not have the same momentum.

For the scientists who just published a special IPCC report on the perspectives of global warming, it is totally suicidal to pursue the status quo and not take action. This will lead to global changes at all levels: ocean, forest, biodiversity. Threats to everything are increasing — from bees to fishery stocks to drinking water. Natural disasters, drought and floods are on the rise. Though solutions have been clearly identified, the status quo remains.

For the Tara Foundation and other defenders of the Ocean, efforts must focus on the immediate reduction of greenhouse gases. And there’s no question of giving up! We are continuing to push for the inclusion of the Ocean in each nation’s climate measures, and for the creation of a specific agenda item for maritime issues at the UNFCCC.

In other words, each nation should put on its agenda specific measures to facilitate the preservation of the Ocean, recognizing its vital role for the climate. With the Ocean and Climate Platform and the Because the Ocean initiative, the “blue” community remains mobilized in Poland, organizing side events and celebrating Ocean Day on December 8th, the same day as the March for Climate in France.

because_the_ocean_banner_invitation_viewThe Because the Ocean initiative will be represented at the COP24. 

Since the COP21 in 2015, what has changed on the international political scene?

Clearly the jumpstart provided by the COP21 did not have a concrete or significant follow-up. CO2 emissions had leveled off, then started to increase again. From a political point of view, we regret the change of ambition in Brussels, especially on the energy issue at a European level.

With the arrival of Mateo Salvini in Italy, the end of Angela Merkel’s dominant position in Germany, and BREXIT in the United Kingdom, Europe is backing down on its ambition to reduce CO2 emissions, and is especially unclear about the closure of coal-fired power plants, a central question in Poland at the COP24.

As for the “big players”, the most important change is undoubtedly the retreat of the world’s most powerful nation with Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States. The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement may be taken as an example and lead to other “departures”, as shown by the newly elected Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. He is now refusing to host the future COP25 in his country, overturning a plan made before he came to power. Although the future Brazilian president has so far given up on leaving the Paris Agreement, a government skeptical of climate change in Brazil is a blow to the UNFCCC process. This is a disturbing signal because Brazil has been a historic leader in the climate process among developing countries and was the only candidate to propose to host the COP25 in 2019.

Bleached coral in the Tuamotu 8 _ Credit David Hannan - Ocean Ark Alliance - Tara Expeditions FoundationBleached coral in the Tuamotu © David Hannan / Ocean Ark Alliance – Tara Expeditions Foundation

What are the main issues of the COP24 negotiations in Katowice?

- Financing : the Green Fund
These backlashes at the highest political level complicate the difficult financial equation of the Green Fund, cornerstone of the Paris Agreement. This Fund – far from being established, with the withdrawal of the United States – should finance in particular the adaptation and mitigation actions of the least-developed and emerging countries.

- Framing implementation of the Accord: the Rulebook
Political instability also threatens the implementation mechanism of the Paris Agreement. The “Rulebook”– a complex device not yet unanimously accepted– is supposed to regulate the implementation of all the individual measures announced by the participating nations.

- Revision of ambitions for 2020
The Paris Agreement provides for a 5-year “dialogue” between states that will lead them to improve their targets for reduction of emissions. But nothing indicates for the moment that this dialogue will bear results by 2020, given the absence of positive signs and political leadership. In 2015, the personal involvement of Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, in addition to the full engagement of French diplomacy and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, were essential for the success of the Paris COP21. In 2018, the horizon is not at all the same.

- The mechanisms of carbon cooperation
The necessary revival of the carbon market, with a stable price per tonne and clear rules for nations and the private sector, is still an open project. A mechanism should be created at the COP24, including opportunities to offset emissions with the purchase of “quotas” from other countries. With the liabilities of a volatile and inegalitarian “carbon market” much criticized in the past, NGOs will be present to point out the flaws of a system that would give an advantage to the richer countries who can “buy their right to pollute” without being penalized for emissions.


For the Tara Expeditions Foundation, it is clear that efforts must focus on the immediate reduction of greenhouse gases. At the same time, work must continue to make the voice of the Ocean heard. Given the first observations made during the Tara Pacific expedition and the work of the IPCC, the most likely scenario of a 3.50 C temperature increase is extremely worrisome for marine biodiversity.

For this COP24, we are expecting:

1. A strong commitment from the European Union, with no backtracking in the face of the most polluting or reluctant countries, such as Poland

2. Leadership at the highest level with heads of state involved, as was the case in 2015, with real funding (not recycled or conditional)

3. On the official negotiations agenda, inclusion of a point on the Ocean, in order to accelerate the taking into account of concrete measures related to the marine ecosystem in 2020.

André Abreu
 International Policies Director

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