Nations agree global climate pact rules, but seen as weak


The deal between the agreement's almost 200 participating countries came after an all-night negotiating session at the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland.

After two weeks of talks in the Polish city of Katowice, officials from around the world finally reached a consensus on a more detailed framework for the 2015 Paris Agreement which aims to limit a rise in average world temperatures to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The dangers of climate change became more pronounced a year ago after US President Donald Trump announced that the United States, one of the countries producing the largest amount of carbon emissions in the world, would be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Parties to the 195-nation talks could not even agree to "welcome" the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5 deg C, as urged by at-risk nations. "To avoid unsafe warming, countries need to ratchet up their ambition dramatically, which will only happen if countries have clarity about what others are committing to, and confidence that they are meeting those commitments".

The final text omitted a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and merely welcomed the "timely completion" of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.

"Political will is missing", Alden Meyer, director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit science advocacy group said as the conference staggered towards a finish delayed for more than 24 hours by last-minute wrangling over parts of the text.

But it deferred rules on carbon credits - a spur to business - and lacked any firm commitment to strengthen countries' emissions cut targets by 2020, when the agreement comes into force. And so the USA was represented in the Poland talks and, at one point, made a presentation on the benefits of fossil fuels. The decisions were "1000 small steps forward", he said.

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"Polish Presidency informs that a preliminary version of the package implementing the Paris Agreement has been worked out".

"Those rules, known as the 'transparency framework, ' are vital to the success of the Paris Agreement".

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore also hailed China's leadership in tackling climate change, saying that China is "one of the few countries on track to meet its Paris commitment".

"Overall, the USA role here has been somewhat schizophrenic - pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules", said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank.

Delegates at the COP24 said China has been at the forefront of the challenging negotiations, working hard with various parties to untangle some of the key points of contention. These include contributions to cash pools meant to help nations struggling to hit their goals, such as the Green Climate Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund. It also requires them to reveal what they are doing to reduce emissions.

"The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for", said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid.

But the latest drafts offer little comfort to those countries that also want rich industrial nations to pay for damage already caused by global warming, arguing that they're to blame for most of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases humans have pumped into the atmosphere.