What to expect (and not) from COP24


What to expect (and not) from COP24

How is the world doing when it comes to slowing down climate change? Not great, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

For two weeks in December 2018, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — also known as COP24 — was held in Katowice, Poland. While non-state stakeholders like businesses, cities and other organizations got a chance to address the main challenges of curbing climate change during the first week of the conference, the second week was devoted to negotiations between all 195 countries who signed the Paris Agreement. To better understand what to expect from COP24, we spoke with HEC Montréal professor, and Chair in Environmental Economics and Global Governance, Bernard Sinclair-Desgagné.

Movin’On Summit: What main issue is the COP24 aiming to solve?

Bernard Sinclair-Desgagné: This conference is very much in line with COP21, just like COP22 in Marrakech and COP23 in Bonn were, so the goal is to implement the Paris Agreement. More specifically, they aim to elaborate and finalize an action plan for a transition to a low-carbon economy.

There’s also a growing interest in climate justice. Many of the financial measures (taxes) used to limit carbon emissions are often passed down the chain to the customer, including low-revenue citizens who commute daily from remote areas to the city because they can’t afford anything else, city centre neighbourhoods being too expensive, electric car and alternative fuel vehicles being out of reach and public transit often being inefficient.

The Movin’On ecosystem at COP24


Representatives of Michelin and the Movin’On ecosystem were on site at COP24. Take a look at our Twitter account (@movinonconnect) for a play by play of the conference. Here’s are the side events we attended:

December 6

  • Transport day, a yearly staple since COP21, organized by the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC), focused on urban mobility.

December 7

  • Thanks to the Transport Decarbonisation Alliance (TDA) initiative, members of the Movin’On ecosystem enter the “negotiation zone” to create bridges between state and non-state stakeholders for the Action Hub event “Countries, Cities and Companies working together to decarbonise transport.”
  • In the French Pavilion, the TDA and the World Bank join forces to present content on the topic of sustainable mobility for all.
  • As part of the official programming, the UNFCCC invites organizations to share their vision on transportation, including TDA, Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales (IDDRI), World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), ITF and PPMC.

MOS: Is the coalition still strong?

BSD: Well, things have changed a lot since COP21. Climate change skepticism is gaining ground, and after the United States left the Paris Agreement, it’s been more and more tempting for other countries to follow suit. This makes it harder and harder to reach the goal, and as the latest IPCC report shows, the planet is not on the right track: the clock is ticking, the changes are accelerating or happening faster than we expected them to, and we’re not doing enough to lower our emissions.

The beautiful coalition that was COP21 was absolutely unique in the history of the world: 195 countries agreed to sign a demanding treaty that requires everyone to work. From the point of view of global governance, this consensus was unique and deserved respect. But now that the veneer is cracked, I fear the spirit is gone and other countries may follow.


MOS: Well, this is hard to hear. Is there still hope?

BSD: I’ll answer with an example. While the USA chose to leave the Paris Agreement, states and cities like California and Pittsburgh have reaffirmed their allegiance to the goals of COP21. And it’s no small deed: in terms of economy and population, California is as big as Canada. Because of its sheer weight in terms of mass of customers alone, most carmakers align their norms to California in order for their cars to sell in the state. So decisions made in California impact the whole country. But these smaller governments are not the ones negotiating at COP24, national governments are. One might wonder if there might be a paradigm shift in global governance coming up in the future. It would be a revolution in global governance, that’s for sure.


MOS: Is there a pressing issue in terms of climate change that COP24 didn’t plan on addressing?

BSD: Well, the topic of adaptation to climate change was not in the agenda as such. It’s not in the Paris Agreement either, which is strictly preventive. But I think it’s time to start thinking about how humanity will adapt to the already inevitable climate change, and how it will be financed.


MOS: Are we on track to meet the Paris Agreement objectives, in terms of transportation?

BSD: I think change is happening, but it’s going too slow. However, it’s not all black and white. When I see all this progress — improved performance and cost of electric and hybrid cars, smart cities, changes in urban planning, new technologies and whatnot — I truly think it can be done. We just need to pick up the pace.

Don’t forget to take a look at our COP24 wrap-up.