FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2018 file photo U.S. President Donald Trump visits a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires in Paradise, Calif. Forest fires from California to Greece, droughts in Germany and Australia, tropical cyclones Mangkhut in the Pacific and Michael in the Atlantic: scientists say this year’s extreme weather offers a glimpse of disasters to come if global warming continues unabated. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

World faces ‘impossible’ task at post-Paris climate talks

Seasoned negotiators are calling the meeting, which is expected to draw 25,000 participants, “Paris 2.0”

Three years after sealing a landmark global climate deal in Paris, world leaders are gathering again to agree on the fine print.

The euphoria of 2015 has given way to sober realization that getting an agreement among almost 200 countries, each with their own political and economic demands, will be challenging — as evidenced by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord, citing his “America First” mantra.

“Looking from the outside perspective, it’s an impossible task,” Poland’s deputy environment minister, Michal Kurtyka, said of the talks he will preside over in Katowice from Dec. 2-14.

Top of the agenda will be finalizing the so-called Paris rulebook, which determines how countries have to count their greenhouse gas emissions, transparently report them to the rest of the world and reveal what they are doing to reduce them.

RELATED: Senators urge Trump to expedite congressional vote on USMCA

Seasoned negotiators are calling the meeting, which is expected to draw 25,000 participants, “Paris 2.0” because of the high stakes at play in Katowice.

Forest fires from California to Greece, droughts in Germany and Australia, tropical cyclones Mangkhut in the Pacific and Michael in the Atlantic — scientists say this year’s extreme weather offers a glimpse of disasters to come if global warming continues unabated.

A recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change warned that time is running out if the world wants to achieve the most ambitious target in the Paris agreement — keeping global warming at 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). The planet has already warmed by about 1 degree since pre-industrial times and it’s on course for another 2-3 degrees of warming by the end of the century unless drastic action is taken.

The conference will have “quite significant consequences for humanity and for the way in which we take care of our planet,” Kurtyka told the Associated Press ahead of the talks.

Experts agree that the Paris goals can only be met by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050.

But the Paris agreement let countries set their own emissions targets. Some are on track, others aren’t. Overall, the world is heading the wrong way.

Last week, the World Meteorological Organization said globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide reached a new record in 2017, while the level of other heat-trapping gases such methane and nitrous oxide also rose.

RELATED: B.C. and Washington pledge to protect habitat for orcas, salmon

2018 is expected to see another 2 per cent increase in human-made emissions, as construction of coal-fired power plants in Asia and Africa continue while carbon-absorbing forests are felled faster than they can regrow.

“Everyone recognized that the national plans, when you add everything up, will take us way beyond 3, potentially 4 degrees Celsius warming,” said Johan Rockstrom, the incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“We know that we’re moving in the wrong direction,” said Rockstrom. “We need to bend the global carbon emissions no later than 2020 — in two years’ time — to stand a chance to stay under 2 degrees Celsius.”

Convincing countries to set new, tougher targets for emissions reduction by 2020 is a key challenge in Katowice.

Doing so will entail a transformation of all sectors of their economies, including a complete end to burning fossil fuel.

Poor nations want rich countries to pledge the biggest cuts, on the grounds that they’re responsible for most of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Rich countries say they’re willing to lead the way, but only if poor nations play their part as well.

“Obviously not all countries are at the same stage of development,” said Lidia Wojtal, an associate with Berlin-based consultancy Climatekos and a former Polish climate negotiator. “So we need to also take that into account and differentiate between the responsibilities. And that’s a huge task.”

Among those likely to be pressing hardest for ambitious measures will be small island nations , which are already facing serious challenges from climate change.

The U.S., meanwhile, is far from being the driving force it was during the Paris talks under President Barack Obama. Brazil and Australia, previously staunch backers of the accord, appear to be following in Trump’s footsteps.

Some observers fear nationalist thinking on climate could scupper all hope of meaningful progress in Katowice. Others are more optimistic.

“We will soon see a large enough minority of significant economies moving decisively in the right direction,” said Rockstrom. “That can have spillover effects which can be positive.”

Poland could end up playing a crucial role in bringing opposing sides together. The country has already presided over three previous rounds of climate talks, and its heavy reliance on carbon-intensive coal for energy is forcing Warsaw to mull some tough measures in the years ahead.

The 24th Conference of the Parties, or COP24 as it’s known, is being held on the site of a Katowice mine that was closed in 1999, after 176 years of coal production. Five out of the city’s seven collieries have been closed since the 1990s, as Poland phased out communist-era subsidies and moved to a market economy.

Still, in another part of the city, some 1,500 miners continue to extract thousands of tons of coal daily.

Poland intends to send a signal that their future, and by extension that of millions of others whose jobs are at risk from decarbonization, isn’t being forgotten. During the first week of talks, leaders are expected to sign a Polish-backed declaration calling for a ‘just transition’ that will “create quality jobs in regions affected by transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Then, negotiators will get down to the gritty task of trimming a 300-page draft into a workable and meaningful agreement that governments can sign off on at the end of the second week.

“(I) hope that parties will be able to reach a compromise and that we will be able to say that Katowice contributed positively to this global effort,” Kurtyka said.

Frank Jordans And Monika Scislowska, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lacrosse player Patrick Dodds, 19, got his start playing for the Saanich Tigers in Braefoot Park and has now been drafted to the Calgary Roughnecks for the upcoming National Lacrosse League season. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Calgary Roughnecks draft young Saanich lacrosse star for coming NLL season

Going pro at 19 is ‘surreal,’ says Patrick Dodds

For Owen Bains, having autism makes navigating the rules and social norms around COVID-19 challenging, says his mother. (Courtesy Nicole Zimmel)
Pandemic poses serious problems for children with autism, say Victoria parents

Parents of children with autism say COVID-19 is overwhelming and reducing social skills

Nicole Abbott and her 10-month-old daughter, Ophelia, shown here at the Metchosin Fire Hall for the Halloween events last year. Residents are invited to a drive-through version this year. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore fire halls take pandemic-safe approach to Halloween

One spooky lane among three drive-thru features by firefighters

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Most Read