Everything you need to know about the new UN climate agreement
Published Saturday, December 15, 2018 8:09PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 15, 2018 10:16PM EST
On Saturday, officials from nearly 200 countries agreed to a set of guidelines to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland.
Here’s what you need to know about the agreement, which is being called the Katowice Climate Package.
What exactly is it?
The new agreement lays out specific measures to fulfil the promises of the Paris Agreement. The terms of the agreement were hotly debated over several days by member countries before being agreed upon.
The UN celebrated the Katowice Climate Package as the beginning of a “new era of global climate change action,” saying it will promote international cooperation on climate change, boost transparency among countries and benefit people from all walks of life.
The new measures will be implemented in 2020.
Despite the excitement, the new agreement isn’t perfect, according to Blair Feltmate, head of the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation.
“Could the agreement be stronger? The answer is yes, it could always be,” Feltmate told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
“But nonetheless, at least now we have an agreement from which to work upon which you can get traction to move forward on the overall climate file. So in that sense, I would focus on the positive aspects of the achievement, still recognizing there’s always more to do.”
What was agreed to?
The main achievements of the Katowice Climate Package include an agreement on how to report greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to reduce to them as well as a commitment from wealthy countries to provide financial assistance to poorer countries to help them in cutting emissions, prepare for things such as rising sea levels and pay for damages already caused by climate change.
Who is onboard?
Officials from 196 countries have agreed to the Katowice Climate Package. Representing every corner of the globe, they include everyone from the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters, such as China and the United States, to middling powers like Canada to tiny Pacific island nations like Tuvalu.
Wait, the U.S. is onboard?
Although U.S. President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, pulled his country out of the Paris Agreement and promoted the use of coal, the U.S. not only agreed to the Katowice Climate Package but was also one of the biggest champions of creating transparency rules to ensure that no country will be able to shirk their emission-cutting commitments.
Who represented Canada at the conference?
Canada was primarily represented by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. “Global problems require global solutions,” McKenna tweeted after the Katowice Climate Package had been finalized.
“And somewhat unbelievably, countries around the world came together at (the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference) and stepped up. These days that isn't always the case. It should be celebrated and replicated!”
Feltmate praised McKenna’s role on the climate change file.
"I think Catherine McKenna merits great credit for continuing to push the envelope all the time on the need to overall mitigate greenhouse gas emissions," he said.
"And she’s also bringing to the table the fact that… we have to adapt to extreme weather events: the floods, the fires, the drought conditions that we see in certain locations. So, she’s pushing both halves of the envelope – mitigating greenhouse gas emissions almost equally with adaptation – and I think that in that regard, she merits certain accolades."
Were there any sticking points?
Many countries differed sharply in their views of how to make a functioning carbon credit market, which would aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions while raising money to help limit global warming. Talks on how to create an emissions trading system will be resumed at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Chile.
What else was left out?
Large oil exporters like the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait successfully blocked an attempt to include language about weaning the world off fossil fuels in the agreement. The final text of the agreement also lacks specific 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
Feltmate said carbon capture and sequestration – that is, removing carbon from the atmosphere – is something the world needs to “push hard” on if we have any hope of curbing global warming.
“How do we suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it safely in the earth in deposits? And that is a necessary condition for success in the climate file. Period.”