High goals, few actions What will the climate conference in Poland bring?

High goals, few actions What will the climate conference in Poland bring?

High goals, few actions What will the climate conference in Poland bring?

It is a conference of superlatives: Representatives from almost 200 countries are meeting for two weeks in Katowice, Poland, to discuss a vital issue for humanity. Can we limit global warming to a tolerable level? Questions and answers about this:

The earth has already warmed up by around one degree since the pre-industrial era around 1750. More people around the world are fleeing from natural disasters and climate events than from war and violence. But this year too, emissions of the climate killer carbon dioxide are increasing again instead of decreasing. Massive amounts of new coal-fired power plants are still being built in many countries, most cars are still not electric, and many sectors of the economy are still geared towards oil, coal and gas. There are plenty of warning signals: According to initial analyzes by the World Weather Organization, the years 2015 to 2018 were the four warmest since records began in the 19th century. And the 20 warmest were in the past 22 years. If the world continues as before, by the end of this century we will probably be living in a three to four degree warmer world.

In this country, the average temperature has increased even more than in the world, namely by more than one degree. This additional energy in the weather system is the reason for more extreme situations. Depending on the region, this can mean more heat, more heavy rain or more flooding. Those who suffer are, for example, old and sick people who find it difficult to cope with extreme heat. Or farmers who alternately have to contend with moderate rainfall or long periods of drought from year to year.

At the UN climate conference in Paris three years ago, the 190 countries represented agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees if possible. Since then, many countries have set themselves national reduction targets. However, all experts say that together these are far from enough. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated it in a special report: To achieve the 1.5-degree target by 2030, global CO2 emissions must fall by 45 percent compared to 2010, and by 2050 even to net zero. This requires an unprecedented, radical overhaul of our economic and transportation systems—away from coal, oil, and gas, starting now. It is questionable whether large countries will join in: US President Donald Trump has left the Paris Agreement, in Brazil a right-wing president is in the process of facilitating the deforestation of the rain forest, which is so important. And China is trying to phase out coal in view of the air pollution in its megacities. At the same time, the People’s Republic is investing massively in coal power in Africa and Asia, among other places.

The image of the Federal Republic as a pioneer in climate protection has received many scratches: The government missed the climate goals it had set itself for 2020. She is also going to Poland without a firm promise as to when exactly the coal-fired power generation will be phased out in this country. The transport sector shows how sluggishly things are going in many areas with the conversion towards climate protection: Here the emissions of carbon dioxide have not decreased at all since 1990, but have increased. After all: Germany recently doubled its financial commitment to the Green Climate Fund, an important UN money pot for poor countries, to 1.5 billion euros a year.

A rule book is to be adopted to make the contributions of the individual states to climate protection and also the financial commitments measurable, comprehensible and comparable. For the German government and also the economy in this country, this is also a question of fairness: because if other states control more laxly, there are fears of competitive disadvantages, it is said. And the poorer countries also want to be able to track that the promised financial aid and investments are actually flowing. The goal: Nobody should be able to cheat.

Environmentalists also hope that other countries will improve their national climate targets. The EU Commission, for example, which is negotiating for Germany, is calling for an economy without greenhouse gases within 30 years. What is meant is a complete turning away from oil, coal and gas in the economy, energy supply and transport. Other states are far less ambitious.

After all, as always, it’s also about the money: It has been agreed that the poorest countries should receive 100 billion dollars a year from 2020 to deal with climate change. But the USA, for example, no longer feels bound by it. The most important pot of money, the green climate fund, now needs fresh money. Germany has already pledged to double its annual contribution to €1.5 billion.

All in all, from the point of view of environmentalists, Kattowitz (Katowice) is about nothing less than the big picture. For example, the managing director of , Christoph Bals, warns: “This generation decides whether the contract with future generations, which is intended to ensure them a life in dignity, is to be terminated.”