On Saturday, 197 leaders from major countries and more than 200 NGOs attended the 19th Climate Summit at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Many began gathering as early as the wee hours of the morning to press climate negotiators to address, among other things, shifting weather patterns, the lives of farmers and the millions impacted by natural disasters.
“The first thing we need to say is that our attention was no longer on scientists, but on the people,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after a preliminary conversation at the Paris climate summit on Monday.
Here are six of the key points:
1. Climate change has become a global threat
At COP19 in November 2017, Bonn leaders were briefed on an “extensive, disturbing” report on how climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. This report indicates the risk to human and ecosystem security is increasing at an alarming rate, said Negroponte in the statement.
“Countries that accept that this threat is real and that it is to be confronted will benefit from increased support and leadership in making their own decisions to implement measures to reduce emissions and prepare for the future,” Negroponte said.
2. The ambition of a future deal is down the line
Between the words “carbon fee and dividend” and “carbon tax,” negotiators learned in November 2017 that there was a lot of confusion around which kind of pricing model, if any, is best suited to tackling climate change.
If the agreement reached in Paris in 2015 calls for limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius, then successful models from the U.S. could revolve around charging polluters and investors to reduce greenhouse gases.
But if negotiators at Katowice determine a carbon fee won’t do the trick, some models also call for a carbon tax that could be tied to any number of end users.
3. The climate is changing because of human activities
Satellites have detected the most dramatic changes in climate seen in over 50 years, said Al Gore, the Nobel Laureate and former U.S. vice president, at the Paris climate summit in 2015. The warmth of the Earth in May 2019 is nearly 5 degrees C warmer than it was in the mid-1990s, he said. In May 2016, the globe was 1.4 degrees warmer than it was then.
“Human beings are the only contributor to that trend,” Gore said.
And since they are contributing, there is no short-term fix that can stand up to climate models predicting future warming, he said.
“Humans cannot stop this future long-term warming trend,” he said. “All we can do is live with the consequences, which will become increasingly damaging.”
4. Great patience needed
Desperate farmers and farmers’ children feel the impact of climate change, said Juliette de Rivero, a world renowned climate researcher and researcher at the University of East Anglia. They’re the ones that refugees are more likely to flee because of the impacts of climate change.
But this is going to take some time, she said. You can’t have climate change in every area of society overnight, she said. Most of the variability in climate can be traced to the amount of greenhouse gases humans have put into the atmosphere.
“The climate is going to be changing for centuries,” de Rivero said. “Maybe it will be OK. It will be interesting to see how we adapt.”
5. Pushing for climate action may be an issue for developed countries
Many here are looking at the movement for Indigenous rights and justice. These voices may want to see if the conference can also have environmental justice, which is more challenging and was largely ignored when negotiators at the Paris climate summit struck a deal.
In 1997, the Soap Negotiations formalized the idea that negotiators work for the majority of those they are dealing with. They also expressed a commitment to represent and prevent against those they were dealing with.
At Paris, because the U.S. wasn’t a party to the agreement, the only question at the time was whether the U.S. would have to ratify the agreement. But since President Trump announced the U.S. would exit the agreement, negotiators have taken a much broader view of the agreement than simply international processes, agreement and cooperation.
6. Diplomats’ most important goal is longer-term coordination
Zach Brown, a climate researcher at MIT, said that most of the time it’s easier to solve short-term climate problems. It’s