COP 24: From Ambition to Action?


The 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is set to launch on the 2nd of December in Katowice, Poland. The conference is held annually, and invites state representatives, members of the press and media and delegates from select observer organisations to join the discussion and move towards the mitigation of global climate change. These annual meetings create an ideal opportunity to take stock of progress and create an open dialogue between parties.

Key indications of its success can be observed in the scale of agreements, mechanisms and initiatives which have historically arisen from meetings. For example, the Kyoto Protocol in 1995, and more recently, the Paris Agreement. In addition to these – often ground-breaking – achievements, the annual meeting succeeds in bringing climate change and environmental issues to the attention of policy-makers and the public alike.

Last year’s COP 23, held in Bonn, marked the first since the US’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement. Despite the looming spectre of US departure, discussions continued with little disruption as many influential US leaders and corporations maintained their commitments and other countries reaffirmed their pledges. Chiefly, COP 23 saw some progress made with respect to the ‘Paris Rulebook’ which will establish guidelines to operationalise the agreement. A further notable outcome was the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’ – setting out an inclusive, participatory and transparent approach to discussions. Finally, pre-2020 action was a significant discussion point which set out requirements for stock-takes in 2018 and 2019, and greater efforts with respect to climate finance to be made. This culminated in a synthesis report published in September 2018.

In preparation for COP 24, subsidiary bodies met in Bangkok in September, seeking to provide clarifications and draft the rulebook, streamlining discussions to be held in December. The outcome was a compilation document, indicative of the complexities of such a vast and global treaty.

COP 24 – What can we expect?

Clearly, there is much work still to be done in Katowice. Primarily, the meeting marks the deadline for decisions with respect to the rulebook. It is hoped that negotiators will produce a complete architectural framework, detailing the mechanisms by which the agreement shall function, ensuring the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The aforementioned Talanoa Dialogue also enters its next phase during COP 24 – the political phase. The dialogue will be utilised to discuss and reflect on the latest IPCC report, which demonstrated the urgency to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, as well as to take stock of the progress and efforts of parties taken to meet their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Moreover, collectively, these discussions should help to inform the preparation of future NDCs. 

The provisional agenda for COP 24 also sets aside time for discussions on the often problematic topic of climate finance, technology and loss and damage associated with climate change.

A Difficult Negotiation

Souvik Ghosh, Associate Director of sustainability services at Bureau Veritas, explains the challenge: “The scale of what is intended to be achieved in Poland must not be under-emphasised. Triumphant discussions would produce a complete framework for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Ideally, this would be paired with mechanisms encouraging a revaluation and enhancement of NDCs to reflect recent scientific developments and bring ambitions in line with a 1.5 degree target. Alternatively, we could see discussions descend into chaos. Realistically, it is likely that talks will be challenging, with respective countries struggling to compromise on certain issues such as climate finance, climate justice and damage compensation. However, one would hope that a growing urgency and demand for environmental action by the public across the planet will be matched by a corresponding urgency at COP 24 – arguably the most important in COP history since Paris. We would hope that a framework will be drawn up, likely pending some finalisation and modification. Ultimately, observers should look forward to the assembly, with all fingers crossed.”

Want to know more? - Bureau Veritas Sustainability Service

Bureau Veritas offers diversified portfolio of sustainability and climate change services for clients. If you want to speak to one of our experts to know more about our services and to have updates on COP 24 to understand its implications on your organisation’s strategy, please email us at or call 0345 600 1828. 

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