Participants attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. (Xinhua/Jaap Arriens)
by Xinhua writers Jin Jing, Zhang Jiawei, Zhang Zhang
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- Negotiators from nearly 200 countries on Saturday agreed on the implementation guidelines, or a common rulebook, of the landmark Paris Agreement after two weeks of intensive talks, though observers warn of grave challenges still ahead to tame climate change.
The 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stretched beyond its originally planned closing time of Friday evening and ran deep into Saturday in the southern Polish city of Katowice.
The COP24 has been deemed the most important climate meeting since 2015 when the Paris Agreement was produced with the goal of capping global warming at two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels while pursuing the even tougher goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Observers say that, with the guidelines adopted, countries can now work on the national systems needed for implementing the Paris Agreement starting from 2020. Similar efforts will be made at the international level.
A THOUSAND LITTLE LEAPS FORWARD
The conference burst into cheers and applause when Michal Kurtyka, president of the COP24 and state secretary of Poland's Ministry of Energy, finally emerged on Saturday night to announce the outcome of the talks.
"This was not an easy task. It was hard and daunting, but we pushed it through," he said. "Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together."
The agreed "Katowice Climate Package" includes guidelines on how countries should provide information about their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that maps out their respective domestic climate actions.
The rulebook spells out mitigation and adaptation measures as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries. The package also includes guidelines related to the process for establishing new targets on financial support from 2025 onwards.
The new targets are a follow-on from the current target of mobilizing 100 billion U.S. dollars per year from 2020 to support developing countries.
The guidelines also cover the development and transfer of technology to developing countries to help them rise to climate challenges.
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), hailed the achievement at the Katowice conference.
"Katowice has shown once more the resilience of the Paris Agreement -- our solid roadmap for climate action," she said.
While the adoption of the guidelines is a landmark, negotiators delayed decisions on a few key issues until next year in an effort to eventually produce a deal. Among these issues is how to create a functioning carbon credit market.
The funding of a World Bank pledge of 200 billion U.S. dollars by developed countries over five years to help developing countries cut emissions also remains a major concern.
The developed countries had pledged to collectively mobilize 100 billion U.S. dollars a year by 2020 to help developing countries combat and better adapt to climate challenges but observers say the actual funding provided by the developed countries falls far behind the goal.
The final text adopted by the conference also falls short of endorsing a report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about the devastating effects of even 1.5 Celsius degrees of global warming which requires specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Instead, the final statement merely welcomes the "timely completion" of the IPCC report and shuns a stance on its conclusions.
"No one is entirely happy with this rulebook, but it is an important step," said Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UNFCCC.
"The foundations of the rules are still the Paris Agreement, which remains as strong as ever," she added.
CHINA PLAYS "FUNDAMENTAL ROLE"
Delegates at the COP24 said China has been at the forefront of the challenging negotiations, working hard with various parties to untangle some of the key points of contention.
Kurtyka, president of the COP24, told Xinhua in an interview that China has been playing a "fundamental role" in pushing for a concrete outcome.
The world's largest developing country has adopted effective measures to tackle climate change, stepping forward as an example for other countries amid divisions and uncertainties, said Kurtyka.
Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna told the press that "the role China plays around the negotiating table can't be underestimated."
Xie Zhenhua, China's special representative for climate change, told Xinhua that the Chinese delegation put in enormous efforts during the talks and made important contributions to the outcome of the conference.
Observers say China, now on the track of green, low-carbon and renewable development with its effective climate policies, holds extra sway in the negotiations.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore also hailed China's leadership in tackling climate change, saying that China is "one of the few countries on track to meet its Paris commitment."
Thanks to increased investment in green energy, China's carbon intensity, or the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of output, had declined by 46 percent by 2017 from 2005, meeting ahead of schedule its target a 40-45 percent drop by 2020, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
The country is also well positioned to meet its target of carbon dioxide emissions peaking by 2030, and even accomplishing that sooner than planned, according to Xie.
Climate activists say the Katowice rulebook is only a first step, as good policies and strong enforcement by governments are the key to securing climate goals.
Even though many countries have significantly improved their renewable energy regulations since 2010, there are still significant barriers to global progress on sustainable energy, said a latest World Bank report.
RISE 2018, the World Bank report that maps global progress on sustainable energy policies by measuring policy progress in 133 countries, said policies to decarbonize heating and transportation, which account for 80 percent of global energy use, continue to be overlooked.
To limit global warming to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5 degree Celsius, carbo dioxide emissions would have to decline by 50 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by around 2050, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project.
Kurtyka, president of the COP24, called for further solid actions to tackle pressing climate challenge to secure a better world for the future generations.
"When I look at my young daughter, she is 4 years old right now. I try to think hard about the world she will wake up to in 25 or 30 years. And I would like to leave it in a little bit better shape that I got it," he said.
(Xinhua reporters Chen Xu, Shi Zhong Yu, Han Chong contributed to this story)
(Video reporter: Han Chong; Video editor: Cao Ying)