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Wording dispute undermines unified UN response to IPCC climate warning

Media reports found a lack of global consensus at the 24th United Nations Climate Change Conference in responding to a landmark report demanding stricter environmental targets

Global agreement could not be reached in responding to the conclusions of a landmark climate change report during the ongoing 24th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Poland.

The BBC has reported that the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait all objected to “welcoming” the recent findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urging stricter targets on curbing carbon emissions beyond current targets.  The critical findings in the report has already seen the UK government committing to review and potentially accelerates its own carbon reduction aims.

The report’s warning could potentially impact regulations and policy concerning building planning and design as well as other influential targets such as F-Gas regulation introduced by the EU to shift away from the use of higher GWP refrigerant for years to come.

The UN-established IPCC has warned that previous commitments to limit planet-wide temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius will not avoid irreversible impacts from global warming. It therefore said that this target must be revised to a maximum increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius instead.

However, efforts by the UN to issue a statement that welcomed the IPCC’s findings, which the organisation’s own members had initially commissioned, failed during the conference’s first week. An agreement among all parties at the COP24 event just to agree on the wording of a response was not reached, reflecting a divide on how best to respond to the IPCC’s warnings.

Several nations in attendance reportedly favoured that the conference “take note” of the findings, rather than offer any support for the conclusions and the implications for environmental policy and commitments globally.

The BBC said, “With no consensus, under UN rules the passage of text had to be dropped.”

“Many countries expressed frustration and disappointment at the outcome.”

The organisers of the current conference said on December 8 that the first week of COP24 had concluded technical negotiations and did not mention the potential dispute over wording.

COP24 deputy minister Michał Kurtyka said that work around finalising a new Paris Agreement implementation package was continuing.

Mr Kurtyka did ask after the first week for more intensive efforts to reach agreement on an implementation package to meet the Paris Agreement goals. He also called for greater “openness” in reaching a compromise on commitments.

the conference organisers did note that World Bank President Kristalina Georgieva had committed to doubling its existing funding commitments to US$200 billion to meet more ambitious climate change planning.

US commitments

Despite questions over the nature of the current US government’s support for major climate pacts such as the Paris Agreement, a major HVACR industry body in the country said it remains committed to pushing for compliance with key global carbon reduction goals.

Bill Steel, the new chairman of the US-based Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), recently told RAC Magazine that the organisation was committed to ensuring the country meets its obligations under the Kigali Amendment.

The commitments to try and curb outputs of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment for purposed functions such as cooling is seen as being a major contributor to meeting global climate change mitigation targets.

The Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) which seeks to restrict emissions of ozone depleting substances and replace them with safer alternatives was amended under the presidency of Barack Obama to try and reduce emissions of HFCs in refrigerant.

However, a ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency that deemed HFC use as “unacceptable” under SNAP was reversed last year by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. This decision has more recently been upheld by the US Supreme court creating uncertainty over HFC policy in the US and the wider view of the Trump administration to plan for cutting carbon outputs from key contributors that would include transport and buildings.

Mr Steel said the AHRI would focus on ensuring that the US cooling industry worked to a global phase down schedule with regard to refrigerant as defined in the Kigali Amendment. It is also committed and in the process of working with Senate members and the Trump administration to play up the merits of complying with the Kigali Amendment.

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