United Nations Katowice Climate Change Conference to begin on 2 December – The Commission’s vision for the EU’s long-term climate strategy published today

Press release 2018-11-28 at 15:00

Parties to the UNFCCC will meet in Katowice, Poland 2 – 14 December to negotiate on rules related to the 2015 Paris Agreement. The rules apply to reporting and monitoring of emissions and emissions cuts as well as how the combined adequacy of climate measures is assessed and sped up. Current climate measures are not adequate to limit the rise of the Earth’s average temperature to less than 2 °C let alone less than 1.5 °C.

The conference in Poland will take place just under two months after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its report on limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The IPCC’s message is clear: the change we need to implement is of unparalleled size and everyone must do more and do it at a faster pace so that global warming can be curbed to tolerable levels. According to the IPCC, a rise in average temperature of 1.5 °C is already enough to cause significant risks to ecosystems and societies, and if the rise is half a degree more than this, roughly speaking, risks will double. The UN Environment (UNEP) Emissions Gap report published just before the conference states that carbon dioxide emissions are once again increasing and the gap between the targets and measures is larger than ever before.

“We live in very critical period: emissions must be cut worldwide in the next few years, if we expect to able to attain the set targets. This will require courage and determined efforts. Finland, the Nordic countries, and the EU will do their all in Katowice to turn the tide,” says Minister of Housing, Energy and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen.

A single set of clear rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement as a target

Talks will not be easy as countries have quite varying views on what and who the Paris Agreement’s implementing rules apply to. However, it is Finland’s and the EU’s objective that during the conference in Katowice parties will lay down one set of clear rules that will apply equally to everyone.

“In Paris, we agreed that all countries would be on the same starting line. However, some developing countries and, in particular, some quickly growing economies still want the rules to differ for different groups of countries, which is completely contrary to the spirit of the Paris Agreement. A clear and uniform rulebook is also a question of credibility for the Paris Agreement,” says Finland’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change Outi Honkatukia from the Ministry of the Environment.

The Paris Agreement entered into force two years ago, and, it has at present been ratified by 184 parties. In summer 2017, the United States announced that it would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but parties may withdraw at earliest in autumn 2019 meaning the United States will take part in negotiations in Katowice in the same way as in past years.

In addition to a rulebook for the Paris Agreement, the conference will include talks on short-term climate measures, climate funding as well as adapting to climate change. Participants in Katowice will also engage in Talanoa Dialogue, which combines messages from climate discourse held around the world throughout the year and examines how the collective climate measures of different countries fare in relation to the Paris Agreement’s targets. The IPCC’s 1.5 degree report will act as the basis for dialogue. Minister Tiilikainen will be Finland’s representative in the Talanoa Dialogue.

The President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö will attend the opening of the conference on 3 December. Finland’s delegation will be headed during the first week of the conference by Outi Honkatukia, Finland’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change and by Minister Tiilikainen during the second, high level week.

European Commission adopts a long-term vision for EU climate strategy on the threshold of the climate change conference

On 28 November, the European Commission published its vision for the EU’s long-term climate strategy on the eve of the climate change conference. The vision contains eight scenarios for transitioning to a low-carbon society of which two have the premise of net zero emissions by 2050.

“This is an important first step in implementing more stringent targets and a correctly-timed message on leadership to our international partners and it demonstrates that the implementation of the Paris Agreement is progressing. However, we must keep in mind that this is a vision by the Commission, which Member States are only just beginning to discuss and consider. I feel it is important that the EU’s long-term strategy is in line with the Paris Agreement meaning that we should set net zero emissions as our target for 2050. We must also set our intermediate goals accordingly. This means that the EU must set stricter targets for itself for 2030 in the near future,” Minister Tiilikainen emphasises.

The Commission’s strategic vision covers all crucial sectors. The examined scenarios demonstrate that cost-effective solutions such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and the acceleration of the circular economy together with single technological solutions are not enough to achieve net zero carbon emissions. In addition to these, we will need the extensive utilisation of natural carbon sinks as well as changes to transport and mobility practices. Carbon capture and storage are also necessary.

The Paris Agreement stipulates that parties must draw up a low carbon strategy that extends to 2050 by 2020. The Commission’s vision forms a foundation for drawing up an EU strategy. Pursuant to the Paris Agreement countries must also update their emissions cut commitments by 2020. In practice, this means that updates to the EU’s targets for 2030 will be a topic of discussion next year and, especially so, during Finland’s EU Presidency (autumn 2019).

The world’s largest climate fair draws participants from cities, companies and civil society

In addition to the UN Conference of Parties numerous side events, which will draw a total of nearly 30,000 visitors to the city, will be held simultaneously in Katowice. Minister Tiilikainen will have numerous high-level bilateral meetings, in addition to which Tiilikainen will speak, for example, at a biofuel event for the private sector, at an event held by the Powering Past Coal Alliance, at an event that promotes the termination of fossil fuels subsidies, as well as in a dialogue on the funding of short-term climate measures. On 10 December, the Arctic Council, which Finland is currently chairing, will hold its own event on the climate and health hazards posed by soot emissions i.e. black carbon. Local actors and the private sector will also feature prominently at the climate fair.

For news on the Katowice conference and Finland’s delegation read the Ministry of the Environment’s blog or follow hashtag #ilmastoCOP24 on Twitter.

Inquiries

Taru Savolainen, Special Adviser to Minister Tiilikainen, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 40 535 8622, firstname.lastname@ym.fi (in Katowice 9 - 14 December)

Outi Honkatukia, Chief Negotiator for Climate Change Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 50 341 1758, firstname.lastname@ym.fi (in Katowice 30 November - 14 December)

Marjo Nummelin, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 535 250227, firstname.lastname@ym.fi (in Katowice 3 - 14 December)

Riikka Lamminmäki, Communications Specialist, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 50 5762604, firstname.lastname@ym.fi (in Katowice 9 - 14 December, interview requests for Minister Tiilikainen and negotiators during the climate change conference)