The progress of carbon reduction in 2019 will be heavily influenced by the UN’s COP24 that took place in Katowice, Poland in December 2018. The aim of the UN’s annual climate conference was to agree a ‘rulebook’ for how countries will implement the Paris agreement. Underpinning many discussions about the urgency for change were two reports. First, the IPCC’s report, which shows the severity of the impacts that global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would cause, and the need for governments to act now to avoid climate change catastrophe. Second, the Global Carbon Project provided estimates showing that current efforts are insufficient as carbon emissions are still increasing annually.

COP24 has delivered clear guidelines for measuring the commitments made by each country. From 2024 countries will need to report their emissions and their progress in reducing them, which is a great step forward. However, some technical matters such as voluntary carbon markets and climate finance remain contentious. For NGOs the result was disappointing, they were hoping that governments would be more ambitious and start taking more immediate action.

Importantly COP24 has maintained its momentum and reached a unanimous decision. There was some concern that after the US withdrew from the Paris agreement other countries may opt to do the same. This has not been the case. Where some national governments may be lagging, their cities, regional governments and businesses are stepping up to support solutions for climate change, for example in the US.

Wind energy is a climate change success story, as the wind industry has begun to mature it has significantly reduced the cost of energy, making it competitive with fossil fuels. This has meant policy makers in both national and lower levels governments have been empowered to push for higher levels of renewable energy in their energy mix. According to the IPCC report, power generation and reducing the dependence on fossil fuels is key area to tackle. The technology is ready to go, the challenge will be the speed of transition for government policy to switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

Hannah Collings