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COP23 ends without needed progress, COP24 may be the last chance to stay below 1.5°C limit

A protest inside the Fiji-hosted COP23 summit in Bonn.

The November 6-17 United Nations COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany has now concluded.

While the Paris Agreement reached at COP21 in December 2015 committed the world to limiting warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and to “pursue efforts” to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius, it did not make a commitment to a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050 and the non-binding country emission reduction pledges to date would mean a 2.7 to 3.7 degree Celsius increase by 2100.

At COP15 in Copenhagen, the Harper government pledged to reduce emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. At COP21, the Trudeau government pledged to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. In April 2017, Environment Canada quietly released a report stating Canada is projected to significantly miss its 2020 and 2030 climate targets with the set of measures it currently has in place.

Bill McKibben has written, “The problem is, our current business-as-usual trajectory takes us to a world that’s about 3.5C warmer. That is to say, even if we kept the promises we made at Paris (which Trump has already, of course, repudiated) we’re going to build a planet so hot that we can’t have civilizations.”

Summing up COP23, War on Want executive director Asad Rehman says, “Unfortunately, we haven’t really seen the kind of progress that’s needed.”

It is estimated that US$295 billion will be needed for countries to take action on adaptation to climate change in the water sector – a tripling of current investment levels. It is anticipated that 40 per cent of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2050.

In 2008, The Independent reported, “Hundreds of millions could be forced to go on the move because of water shortages and crop failures in most of Africa, as well as in central and southern Asia and South America.”

Indigenous Environmental Network representative Tom BK Goldtooth also noted, “We need to be clear that on the final day of [COP23, it] has not recognized our rights. The final document from the parties to this conference says they only will ‘consider their respective obligations on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities’.”

On the fifth day of the talks, Canada’s trade minister Minister François-Philippe Champagne, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam, issued a media release that stated, “Environment and labour rights will form crucial pillars of [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] and will be subject to dispute settlement mechanisms.”

‘Investment protection’ provisions in ‘free trade’ agreements like TPP-11, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provide powerful tools for transnational corporations to challenge climate action.

And Friends of the Earth Europe says, “The world’s remaining carbon budget is shrinking with every year of insufficient progress.”

Rehman highlights that if we don’t see deeper country emission reduction pledges and as time passes the Paris target of limiting warming to below 1.5°C becomes recognized as no longer achievable, then we need to be talking about a 3°C world and the devastating consequences that will bring for millions of people around the world.

And Rehman notes, “Some people called COP23 the ‘process COP’, that it was setting up the conversations for next year, and that next year was the last chance saloon for keeping temperatures below 1.5. The U.N. secretary-general [Antonio Guterres], when he came to Bonn a couple of days ago, talked about that we only have a five-year window before we have to make sure that the arc of emissions bends towards meeting the 1.5 goal. Lots of issues are being kicked in touch, have been left ’til next year, which makes the COP in Poland a critical COP. It becomes the 1.5 COP.”

COP24 will take place December 3-14, 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The climate will also very likely be on the agenda of the G7 leaders summit in Quebec five months prior to that.