COP 24, a missed opportunity

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Benedicte and I spent a few days in Poland to attend this United Nations environmental convention. Beyond the good logistical organization, the talent of the President of the COP, the efforts of the negotiators and the considerable work of the experts, our impression is that of a halftone result. The Polish press, of course, praised the event as a success, while the international press insisted on the global resignation of the climate. It is true that the international tensions were not favorable to go beyond a minimum consensus but this COP 24 is nonetheless a missed opportunity regarding the challenges of global warming.

A halftone result of COP 24 because:

  • the agreement obtained – with the snatch and after a tedious prolongation – on the « rule book » certainly defines criteria making it possible to concretize the agreement of Paris but it is a minimum agreement. It did not take into account the warnings of the experts on the risks of the climate change and did not make it possible to raise the objectives.
  • few high level delegations showing disinterest of the main States.
  • Polish insistence on the need for reasonableness and a « just transition » (the opening speech of the President of Poland, like that of the President of the COP, gave in this tone and lacked inspiration. It looked like they were pressing as much on the accelerator as on the brake).
  • negative effects of the American position and their oil and coal lobbies encouraging not only climate-skeptics but engaging in provocative talks.
  • stands of NGOs, universities and associations unattractive and uncrowded despite their location close to the food court…
  • Insufficient commitment of major financial institutions (the $ 200 billion announced by the World Bank is largely insufficient to help emerging countries make the low carbon transition).
  • a digital dimension that is not sufficiently perceptible or visible, whether in terms of reception and logistics, interactivity, relay and feedback.
  • an innovation dimension insufficiently mobilized.

Despite this, some highlights:

  • continuous discussion workshops on many issues,
  • intense technical discussions on the criteria.
  • training workshops on essential climate issues,
  • some remarkable interventions by stars of the global environmental jet set.
  • an GIEC report published in November on the need to limit the increase in temperature to 1.5°C and representing a thorough work of experts. But a coalition of oil-producing countries (USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) saying that they did not « take note of interest » of this report but that they « took note of it », semantic subtlety by torpedoing!
  • a remarkable presence of the UN Secretary-General who came to Katowice on 3 occasions. His strong involvement helped to get the agreement in extremis.
  • a soft international dialogue process promoted by Fiji’s previous presidency – the Talanoa process – which will continue.
  • several cries of alarm from countries directly threatened by submersion but not heavy on the world stage.


  • a dull and technically dominant COP, which made it possible to adopt the famous « rule book », a set of rules of transparency, and thus to concretize the Paris agreement.
  • but no significant progress in terms of environmental objectives,
  • a form of planetary non-event, insufficiently relayed by the media and with no effect on the awareness of world public opinion of the environmental emergency,
  • a question about the cost: of the order of 22,000 participants, delegations of several hundred people for some countries, especially African whose added value is difficult to see, except to allow a form of tourism under the environmental pretext. Who pays ?…
  • a Poland that is draped in green to better pursue its coal policy and wanting to give a beautiful image on the world stage while in many ways, its policy is reactionary and liberticide. Poland has organized 3 COPs in recent years (2008, 2013, 2018) it is time to pass the baton to others.

More generally, the halftone result of this COP 24 also questions the usefulness and frequency of such events.

The many global tensions (tensions between USA and China), lack of European leadership, weakness of the countries concerned existentially by climate disruptions, etc.) and the inability to set goals that respond to the urgency revealed by the experts requires our sense to change the logic.

Would it not be better to promote social awareness through global social networks and global citizens?

Would it not be more appropriate to promote regional bases by continent highlighting good practices? And eventually leading to regional agreements?

A COP could then be held every 2 to 3 years at a global level, make regional progress and set a new ambition.

But more fundamentally, it seems to us that it is time to invent new modes of global environmental governance. Indeed, why not substitute for this logic of a centralized COP and operating on a metalogic of the obsolete top / down, a transverse planetary citizen logic with the help of the social networks?

When will the first peaceful planetary happenings of « green vests » or momentary crystallizations with a strong media effect and high capacity for political interpellation? …

Benedicte and Gerard ROTH

December 17, 2018.


comment 1

  1. great article