By Annie Sneed
A shadow looms over this year’s United Nations climate change meeting. The 23rd Conference of the Parties—or its shorthand, COP 23—begins Monday in Bonn, Germany. It commences just five months after Pres. Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, which aims to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius—or ideally, 1.5 degrees C. The international community strongly reprimanded the Trump administration for its decision, and it has vowed to disregard that setback and forge ahead at COP23. No other countries have reneged on the accord.
Nations have a lot to figure out. The 2015 Paris accord “was a landmark agreement,” says Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. “But it left many of the details about [implementation] still to be negotiated.” At COP 23, country representatives will work out the nitty-gritty of how to execute the accord, which will ultimately determine its long-term success. “This is quite a consequential meeting,” says Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “It represents an important early test of [nations’] resolve to honor what they agreed on in Paris.”
The implementation guidelines that country representatives will develop are often collectively referred to as the “Paris rule book.” The numerous rules will address issues such as how countries will track and report their emissions and have them verified, all in a transparent way; how countries will be required to communicate their future emissions-reduction plans as well as their pledges for funding adaptation efforts; and if and how market mechanisms, such as emissions trading between countries, will be applied to national targets. The representatives will also address how nations will assess the gap between global progress made and the Paris agreement’s 2-degree C goal—a collective five-year review named the “global stocktake” that will commence in 2023. Experts say countries likely will not finalize any major guidelines during the two-week COP 23 meeting but will be making crucial progress.
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