Not all hot air
A UN climate meeting ends with guarded optimism
MAKING KATOWICE the host of COP24, the latest of the United Nations’ annual climate summits, was meant to symbolise the transition from the old, dirty world to a new, clean one. Spiritually, the city is the home of Poland’s coal miners. Today, it is replete with besuited management consultants and bearded baristas. The venue itself was on top of a disused mine in the city centre.
Ahead of the two-week powwow, which concluded on December 15th, many observers feared that the meeting would instead highlight the unresolved contradictions involved in making that transition. It therefore came as a relief that nearly 14,000 delegates from 195 countries managed—more or less, and a day late—to deliver the gathering’s primary objective: a “rule book” for putting into practice the Paris agreement of 2015, which commits the world to keeping global warming “well below” 2°C relative to pre-industrial times, and preferably within 1.5°C.
在这场12 月15 日结束的为期两周的会议召开之前，许多人担心会议反而会凸显上述转变过程中那些尚未解决的矛盾。所以当来自195 个国家的近1.4 万名代表推迟了一天才结束会议，多多少少算是实现了本次会议的主要目标时，大家都松了一口气。这次的目标是制定2015 年《巴黎协定》的“实施细则”。《巴黎协定》承诺将全球气温相比工业化前水平的上升幅度控制在远低于2°C 以内，最好是1.5°C 以内。
This outcome was far from assured. Setting an abstract goal, as governments had done in Paris, is simpler than agreeing on how to go about reaching it. Technicalities—what counts as a reduction in emissions, who monitors countries’ progress and so on—can be politically thorny. Poland’s right-wing government, which presided over the talks, lacks both friends (alienated by, among other things, its anti-democratic attacks on judicial independence) and green credentials. Observers were braced for a diplomatic debacle.
Implementing the judgment of Paris
The summit got off to an inauspicious start. At the outset Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, declared that his country cannot reasonably be expected to give up its 200 years’ worth of coal reserves. In France, his opposite number, Emmanuel Macron, caved in to massive protests and suspended a planned fuel-tax rise that had been intended to help curb greenhouse-gas emissions from transport. Days earlier, Brazil had withdrawn its offer to host next year’s summit after Jair Bolsonaro, the president-elect who takes office in January and would love to follow his American counterpart, Donald Trump, out of the Paris deal, said his government had no interest.
峰会开局就不顺。波兰总统安杰伊·杜达一开始就宣称，指望他的国家放弃还能维持两百年的煤炭储备是不合情理的。在法国，总统马克龙向大规模抗议屈服，暂停了意在遏制交通运输温室气体排放的燃油税上调计划。此前几天，巴西撤回了主办2019 年峰会的申请，因为于1 月就职的新任总统贾伊尔·博索纳罗（Jair Bolsonaro）想追随美国总统特朗普的步伐退出《巴黎协定》，他说他的政府对该协定毫无兴趣。
Despite these early setbacks, negotiators resolved most of 2,800-odd points of contention in the rule book’s pre-summit draft. Michal Kurtyka, the amiable Polish bureaucrat who chaired the proceedings, turned apparent haplessness into a virtue, leaving delegates space to thrash out their differences.
尽管初期有这些挫折，谈判代表们解决了于峰会前起草的规则手册中 2800 多个争论点中的大部分。会议由和蔼可亲的波兰官员米哈尔·库尔蒂卡（Michal Kurtyka）主持，他为与会代表留出了讨论分歧的空间，把显而易见的困局变成了好事。
Poor countries won firmer assurances that rich ones would help pay for their efforts to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions and to adapt to rising sea levels and fiercer floods, droughts, storms and other climate-related problems. The rich world, for its part, cajoled China into accepting uniform guidelines for tallying those emissions. Thus stripped of their most powerful voice, other developing countries reluctantly followed suit. If any cannot meet the standards, they must explain why and present a plan to make amends. This concession, long demanded by the Americans, may not convince Mr Trump to keep the United States in the deal. But it could make things easier for any successor who wished to re-enter it when Mr Trump has left office.
Besides haggling over the rules, a handful of countries—including big polluters such as Ukraine—used the jamboree to announce plans for more ambitious “nationally determined contributions” (or NDCs, as the voluntary pledges countries submit under the Paris deal are known for short). The city councils of Melbourne and Sydney, in Australia, joined a growing number of national and local governments intent on phasing out coal. So did Israel and Senegal. In the wake of Brazil’s desertion, Chile stepped in to organise next year’s summit, which convention requires to happen in Latin America. The Paris compact has thus not come apart at the seams.
Predictably, for negotiations that need to balance the interest of nearly 200 parties, no one leaves Katowice entirely happy. Vulnerable countries, such as small island states imperilled by rising seas, worry that the findings of a recent UN-backed scientific report outlining the dire consequences of another half a degree of warming, on top of the 1°C which has happened since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, have been underplayed. Rich countries grumble that poor ones can still get away with too much carbon-emitting.
谈判要平衡近200 个缔约方的利益，可以预见没有哪方能完全满意地离开卡托维兹。工业革命开始以来，全球气温已经升高了 1°C，由联合国支持的一份最新科学报告概述了如果气温再升高 0.5°C 会发生怎样的可怕后果。脆弱的国家，例如饱受海平面上升威胁的小岛国，担心这些后果并没有得到充分重视。富裕国家则抱怨贫穷国家排放过多的二氧化碳却仍可逃脱惩罚。
Mr Kurtyka was also unable, because of Brazilian objections, to break an impasse on carbon trading. This is an arrangement that allows big belchers of carbon to offset emissions by paying others to forgo some of theirs. Brazil balked at proposals intended to prevent double-counting in such trading, because it believed they penalised its large stockpile of carbon-trading instruments, such as promises not to chop down patches of the Amazon. As a consequence, the issue has been kicked into the long cassava.
The direction of travel is, nevertheless, correct. Before the meeting closed Ottmar Edenhofer, a veteran German climate policymaker who is director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, feared Katowice risked marking “the beginning of the end of the Paris agreement”. For all its shortcomings, the compromise which emerged is not that.
不过大方向是正确的。在会议初期，德国资深气候政策制定者、波茨坦气候影响研究所（Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research）的主任奥特马尔·埃登霍费尔（Ottmar Edenhofer）曾担心卡托维兹将标志着“《巴黎协定》终结的开始”。尽管存在种种不足，但最终达成的妥协表明并非如此。
But after all is said and done, the 2°C goal, let alone the 1.5°C aspiration, remain distant prospects. The current set of NDCs puts the world on course for more or less 3°C of warming—and Kiribati and the Marshall Islands at risk of submersion. Campaigners, who spiced up the stodgy talks with a dash of sit-ins and marches, were right to decry the lack of ambition as unequal to the task of sparing future generations from climate catastrophe. The rule book is itself no nostrum for the planet’s man-made fever. The only real medicine is firmer commitment to decarbonising economies. And, as Mr Macron is finding, that medicine can be bitter.
但无论如何，将气温上升幅度控制在 2°C 以内（更不用说1.5°C）仍然是一个遥远的目标。目前各国的 NDC 会让全球在未来升温 3°C 左右，基里巴斯和马绍尔群岛将面临被淹没的危险。活动人士的几次静坐和游行给沉闷的会谈增添了一些活力，他们谴责各国缺乏雄心壮志，无力让子孙后代免受气候灾难的影响。这样的批评没错。实施细则本身并不是解决地球人为发烧的良方。唯一真正的解药是更坚定地推动经济脱碳。而且，正如马克龙感受到的那样，良药苦口啊。