International climate policy

UN Climate Change Conferences

Ministerpräsident Winfried Kretschmann (r.) und Umweltminister Franz Untersteller vor dem Areal der Weltklimakonferenz COP 21 in Paris, Le Bourget.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and entered into force in 1994, is the foundation for global cooperation on climate protection. Since then, the parties to the Convention have met in yearly conferences (COPs) to discuss strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

An important milestone: the Kyoto Protocol

At the Climate Change Conference in Kyoto (1997) the parties reached an important milestone in their negotiations. The Kyoto Protocol was the only international agreement up to that time with legally binding climate protection provisions. A number of industrialised countries committed themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions during the period from 2008 to 2012.

Subsequent climate change conferences focused on reaching an agreement to follow up the Kyoto Protocol. Baden-Württemberg supported efforts by Germany and the EU to establish binding commitments on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and go beyond the Kyoto Protocol by including emerging economies such as India and China plus the United States and Canada.

Difficulties in finding common ground

Owing to differing circumstances and diverging interests it was very difficult to find common ground. Nevertheless, at the Climate Change Conference in Cancún (2010) an agreement was reached to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

In addition, at the conference in Qatar (late 2012) the Kyoto Protocol was extended. The second commitment period, from 2013 to 2020, involves fewer countries. They account for only 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which means that the extension is basically symbolic.

An important step forward: The Paris Agreement sends out an encouraging signal

A number of conferences followed, with results being sometimes encouraging but in many cases also sobering. However, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21) from 30 November to 11 December 2015, participants succeeded for the first time in concluding an international agreement that committed all countries to climate protection. Accordingly, the world community aims to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to even 1.5°C and to achieve a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century.However, the nation states determine their contributions for international climate protection themselves by submitting so-called NDCs (nationally determined contributions). Thus, binding emission reduction targets were not defined for the Parties. Moreover, the clarification of details for operationalising the Paris Agreement was shifted to subsequent conferences.

Marrakech 2016 focuses on implementation – Fiji Presidency in Bonn 2017

The Paris Agreement already entered into force on the 4th of November 2016, just before COP 22 in Marrakech. It marked an important milestone because it was ratified by both China and the United States. The conference in Marrakech differed from previous COPs in that it focused on ways in which the participants could implement the Paris Agreement.

The 23rd COP was held from the 6th to 17th of November 2017 under the Presidency of Fiji but took place on grounds of organisational means at the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn. The negotiations also centred on issues relating to implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as on the already inevitable losses and damages due to climate change.

Katowice 2018

At COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, negotiators managed to reach a compromise on the rulebook for the Paris Agreement. This “rulebook” contains uniform duties and transparency rules for both developed and developing countries to report on their efforts and intended measures. Developing countries with low capacities, such as the least developed countries and small island developing states, were nevertheless granted flexibilities with respect to several obligations. That way, efforts to mitigate climate change, adapting the consequences of global warming and the mobilization and provision as well as the utilisation of climate finance are supposed to become comparable and more transparent.

Furthermore, the Talanoa Dialogue was concluded at COP 24. The Talanoa Dialogue represented a global stocktake of climate action and was initiated already at COP 23 by the Fiji Presidency. The results shall serve as an orientation for nation states when renewing or updating their NDCs.

Outlook – COP25 in Madrid and COP26 in Glasgow

The next COP will take place from 2nd to 13th of December. Originally Santiago de Chile was planned as host city. Due to political unrest in Chile, the COP was relocated to Madrid. There are still some outstanding issues on the Paris Agreement. Parties did not manage to find compromise on all issues in Katowice, such as market mechanisms. In 2020, the UK will likely organize COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. This conference will be rather significant, as Parties are expected bring forward their new NDCs. Despite the efforts so far, the gap between the international targets for limiting climate change and the actions for mitigating global warming continues to grow. Thus, Baden-Württemberg advocates stepping up climate action.