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

Talin Verigin elected SD 20 trustee

Verigin will represent rural Castlegar RDCK Areas I and J.

Castlegar autism workshop helps parents cope with wait times

Kootenay Family Place holding workshop Feb. 1

Columbia Basin Trust shuffles board, new leaders at the table

The Trust is governed by a 12-member Board of Directors

School District 8: No visiting Chinese students have coronavirus

SD8 says its international students have already been screened for the virus

Snow scenes around Castlegar

Our favourite reader submiltted photos.

VIDEO: Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus officially confirmed

Both patient and wife arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Police search for man who went missing from Vernon hotel

Jay Rosenberger, 38, was last seen Friday

NDP suggests easing secondary housing rules for B.C. farmland

Lana Popham proposes guest homes not just for relatives

After four sexual assaults in the same B.C. park, RCMP ask women not to walk alone

Four sexual assaults took place in Glen Park over two months

BC Place lights up in purple and yellow to honour Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash

Whistleblower says Iranian-Americans questioned at Peace Arch crossing were targeted

Immigration lawyer says response from Customs Border Protection is a ‘total cover up’

Most Read