UN Climate Talks: Progress and a Call to Strengthen National Climate Pledges

Attention Shifts to UN Secretary General`s Summit in 2019 to Raise Ambition

Katowice, Poland – As the UN climate talks conclude, WWF welcomes progress in adopting a rulebook to operationalize the Paris Agreement and a signal that countries should submit stronger climate pledges, but remains concerned that world leaders have yet to show the level of national commitment or action needed to tackle the climate emergency.

This year’s talks send a signal for nations to increase their climate targets by 2020 as a response to the latest climate science, delivered by the IPCC's Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

“The decision in Poland provided an adequate set of rules for the Paris Agreement and a map for what has to happen next to increase action,” said Lou Leonard, World Wildlife Fund’s senior vice president for climate change and energy. “Decisions made over the next year are the real prelude to our future.”

While the US federal government hosted an event promoting fossil fuels and made attempts to weaken references to climate science, the US Climate Action Center showcased US efforts to reduce emissions and prepare communities for the impacts of climate change.  Questions about which countries would emerge as climate champions this conference were answered on Wednesday night with the reemergence of a “High Ambition Coalition.” The group that came together in Poland included the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Ethiopia, EU, Norway, UK, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Mexico, pledging to enhance their national climate plans before 2020 and increase both short and long term action.

“The Paris Agreement was designed to be resilient to the storms of global geopolitics and it proved to be so this week in Poland,” said Leonard. “The US government has lost credibility and influence in these negotiations, but others stepped in to fill this leadership void. In Poland, American business and local governments worked with other nations to drive the Paris Agreement forward while the US government’s participation was reduced to a sideshow.”

The COP outcome highlights the high-level UN Secretary General climate summit planned for September, 2019 as a key opportunity for leaders to respond to COP24's call for greater ambition by announcing or committing to updated and more ambitious national climate targets by 2020.

“By the UN Secretary General’s high-level climate summit in September, nations need to clearly commit to increasing their national targets before 2020. Collectively, this new round of targets must help bring the world’s emissions in line with what science shows is necessary to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. National governments should set their new targets in collaboration with the many businesses and local governments who are increasingly taking action consistent with what science demands.”

This round of talks generated a working rulebook to operationalize the Paris Agreement, but critical gaps remain and will need to be addressed at future climate negotiations. A common set of rules governing the transparency and accounting on countries’ climate progress did make it across the finish line, providing some flexibility for developing countries.

The outcome of these talks conclude with little clarity on how to account for the climate finance provided by developed countries to developing countries, how the $100 billion goal by 2020 will be met, or how the overall finance target for post-2025 will be agreed.

The 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the UNFCCC will take place in Chile from 11-25 November, 2019, with the Pre-COP being held in Costa Rica.