October’s special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warned of the grave consequences of allowing global warming to reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, also set the tone for the talks. There was drama when governments at the COP failed to formally acknowledge the report, following objections from Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States, although many states said they would strive to meet the IPCC’s advice.
Although the Paris Agreement aims to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C, ‘the IPCC report clearly says to me that 2°C is not an option and 1.5°C is still catastrophic but manageable,’ says Miles.
‘The IPCC report is clear that we’re not doing enough, that we need to increase efforts,’ adds Shaw.
‘One of the most important elements going in to the talks was the IPCC report, and also how to enhance ambition,’ agrees Saines. ‘In 2019, the trick is going to be getting a chorus of countries to reflect on that and enhance their [national contributions],’ which he predicts could be catalysed by a summit in September organised by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Saines adds: ‘Paris set up that countries are not limited in their implementation and in their ambition by what other countries want to do.’
Carnegie at BusinessNZ agrees, arguing that the failure to finalise the Article 6 rules does not stop governments from forming so-called ‘carbon clubs’ to collaborate bilaterally or even multilaterally on market mechanisms, nor from introducing non-market approaches such as regulations. ‘There is sufficient [detail] in Article 6 for governments to get on without the rulebook. But markets are a vital component to deliver on ambition, and we’re going to need a vibrant offset mechanism to get the finance flows.’
‘I’m really quite disappointed on where we ended up on Article 6, given where we started from,’ says Lisa DeMarco, a veteran of the climate talks and partner at DeMarco Allan in Toronto. ‘There’s not enough here to mobilise private capital.’
‘The only way to get transition is through corporates, with corporates and through corporate buy-in,’ says Miles, who sees Article 6 as a way for the private sector to engage with the Paris Agreement. For this transition, she says, it’s crucial that there are laws in place and that these laws are reflected in contracts, as well as public policy.
In a similar vein, DeMarco says: ‘We will see more bespoke contracting, if there’s any bilateral transactions going on, as well as explanatory notes, from a public international law perspective.’
The Paris Agreement has constructive ambiguity… to allow countries to sign up. In preparing the rulebook, we’re taking away some of that fuzziness
New Zealand Climate Change Minister
Looking ahead to the next COP, to be held in Chile either in late 2019 or early 2020, DeMarco says to watch out for the development of the compliance committee’s rules of procedure, and some measures for expert review.
‘I’m not seeing as much governance direction,’ she says of the current guidelines for the Paris Agreement. ‘We had expected a lot of that to come from the rulebook for Article 6. Governance structures around the market mechanisms are very important.’
This lack of clarity on governance is temporary, says Saines. ‘It’s set up for this to be a really useful and valuable outcome, but it’s not quite there yet. We’re moving forward. The process is never easy, it’s never straightforward.’
Katie Kouchakji is a freelance journalist and can be contacted at email@example.com