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An important step forward in addressing climate change: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-12-16 19:13

People take part in the Claim the Climate march in Brussels, Belgium, on Dec 15, 2018, to demand action at the United Nations conference on climate change in Poland. [Photo/Agencies]

Just a week ago, the prospect of any agreement being reached at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was utterly unimaginable.

But what has been achieved in the Polish city of Katowice builds on what was agreed in Paris in 2015 and marks a significant step forward in efforts to address climate change.

When the big oil-exporting nations — the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — blocked an endorsement of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it looked like the conference was going to produce only more hot air.

The report concluded that while it is possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy and a shift away from fossil fuels.

That a rulebook was adopted on Saturday despite this setback is the result of resilient diplomacy and a triumph for multilateralism.

The rulebook sets out how countries should report their greenhouses gas emissions and the efforts they're taking to reduce them in a universal and transparent way. It also aims to ramp up the commitments made in Paris, with participating countries agreeing to update their carbon emission reduction goals by 2020. The new pledges will be reviewed at the UN summit to be held in September 2019.

There are also guidelines relating to the process for establishing new targets on financial assistance to support the efforts of developing countries from 2025 onwards as a follow-on to the current target of mobilizing $100 billion a year from 2020.

There is still a long way to go, but the outcome does offer hope that the grave consequences of not putting a brake on global warming are now evident to all and the urgency of doing so has been brought home.

A report by the World Meteorological Organization shows that the long-term trend for global warming remains unabated, with the 20 out of the last 22 years the warmest on record, with the last four years the warmest. Given the effects of global warming that have been witnessed so far, we cannot claim to have had no warnings of what lies in store if we fail to takes effective action.

Countries should stick to their "common but differentiated responsibilities" and hold to their commitments for climate action. Any self-calculation will undercut global efforts in this regard.

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