COP24 live blog – Day 4

Goodnight Vienna

And with that cheery thought I’ll sign off for the day from the Vienna pavilion, with its free coffee and pretzel sticks.

I’ll be back for a final day of bruising negotiations – and hopefully lots more slashes – tomorrow.

A Røkke and a hard place

My final blogpost for today will bring the curtain down on a low note with EERA chairman Nils Røkke admitting he cannot see a way the world will keep global warming below 1.5C, given the progress of these COP negotiations.

“It’s very hard to seer how we can match that with two investment cycles left before we use up our acrbon budget,” he said, referring to a recent Bloomberg report.

He called for a large slice of the increased $100 billion Green Fund from 2020 to be targeted towards a mass roll-out of solar in the developing world, but he was also critical of the big solar players for their absence from Katowice.

“They’re not here,” he said of the solar industry – with the honorable exception of Proinso – “you don’t see the large manufacturers around here with big displays, you used to see that before. This is more for the NGOs. I think they [the solar industry] should be here. Their voice should be better heard in this kind of negotiations.”

Another one bites the dust

There goes another one, they have just adopted the recommendations contained in document FCCC/SBI/2018 9/add 1, for those of our readers who were waiting on that one.

Sadly I have to tear myself away now to get the thoughts of Mr. Røkke.

Time for some slashes

I've dipped into the main event, the plenary closing session… Part 1, before I nip out to get the thoughts of Nils Røkke, chairman of the European Energy Research Agency, on this COP gathering.

I have a feeling this is about as rock ’n’ roll as it gets for bureaucrats, as a succession of speakers announce the adoptions of various parts of the agreement on how to hit the sub 1.5C targets, to regular ripples of applause from a packed audience.

This is why we’re here after all, but does anyone else here know what is going on? I’m hearing the welcoming of lots of sub clauses, paragraphs and slashes – so many slashes.

Mind you, I’m not helped by the fact I’ve picked up a translation headset that keeps dropping out so it sounds as if the most important decision humanity has ever faced is in the hands of Norman Collier – any of our readers aged under 40, or from outside Britain… just Google him.

Deal or no deal?

British solar installer, EPC provider and developer Proinso has just staged a presentation to showcase its worldwide achievements and endorsement of the COP24 goals, as well as to launch its new business intelligence and consultancy offering: ETIAM Insights.

Having spoken from the podium of the British pavilion about the importance of governments worldwide creating “market certainty” to keep long-term investors, Proinso’s Head of Marketing Masa Njegovan proved just how good she is at her job by deftly deflecting my questions about the complete lack of certainty offered to the U.K. solar industry by its, currently crisis-stricken government.

Throwing in the Chinese about-turn on solar subsidies, Ms. Njegovan said: “This is just one of the examples of what we need to avoid in the future. If we really want to shift to 100% renewables by 2050, there’s no time, we can’t afford this kind of market uncertainty. We need to do everything we can to attract those donors and investors and to create this certainty where they know what they will get for their dollar of investment.”

Ms. Njegovan conceded Proinso, which is headquartered in Slough, in the southeast of England, has drafted contingency plans in the even of Britain suffering a no-deal Brexit.

With Prime Minister Theresa May having come through a confidence vote in her leadership last night, and having postponed a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal in the face of seemingly unassailable opposition, Proinso, in common with thousands of other British companies is having to plan for outcomes as varied as a hard Brexit, a negotiated deal, a second referendum and even a Jeremy Corbyn government.

“We’re obviously looking very carefully at the situation and following very closely what’s happening. Will Brexit be withdrawn, this decision to exit the European Union? We don’t know, right?”

“We, as a company, we need to manage risk and we do have contingency plans that, unfortunately, we cannot reveal at this time – but we definitely have them.”

A bit of a letdown

It turns out the ‘journalist’ in question, Marc Morano, is quite a celebrity in climate denying circles, at least according to the camera crew filming him before I took my turn.

Disappointingly though, he dialled down the rhetoric when talking to pv magazine, and called only for a free market approach – including solar and wind – to combat climate change “if we assume we’re facing a climate catastrophe. I’m not gonna challenge even challenge the science, I won’t challenge the science”.

True to his word, Mr. Morano at no point challenged the science, merely satisfying himself in previous interviews by referring to the IPCC report as “bollocks” and “a load of bollocks”.

I asked Mr. Morano – who was glorying in the UNFCCC’s admission that the goals set in Paris three years ago will not go far enough – whether that meant he was happy to agree climate mitigation measures must go further, as the UN has this week loudly demanded.

He said he was absolutely not in agreement, but was unable to explain the inherent contradiction in celebrating, and implicitly endorsing, the fears expressed at COP24 about the Paris agreement and at the same time denying he findings that have led to those fears.

And that’s that. After more than 20 years in journalism, the celebrity I finally get to meet in person and exclusively question is not Steve Bull or Vinnie Jones, Chris Packham, Steven Fry or Hristo Stoichkov – it’s an American climate denier and vocal Trump cheerleader. Well hooray.

The real truth

Sorry for the radio silence folks, I was on my way to the EU pavilion but have been drawn irresistably to an American gentleman who is shouting frenziedly into a laptop about the threat the UN poses to self-determination by governments and lauding the strategy of Donald Trump who is apparently aiming to break up this UN racket.

Our correspondent here says Trump has already successfully persuaded Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia to follow suit and that China and other big powers will follow suit because they “don’t want to get their behinds kicked by the U.S.”

I've been here almost half an hour, endeavoring to get an exclusive interview for pv magazine readers about the real story of global warming and solar.

Whirlwind pace

Wow! They are really upping the pace and raising the stakes today – suddenly, press conferences where panel members outnumbered attendees at the start of the week are standing room only.

I'm going to break off now and take a breather by joining the mammoth queue in the dining area. I’ll be back on the beat as soon as I can be.

‘We live in hope’

I’ve dashed across a sizable stretch of the Pacific from the Marshall Islands to Fiji and the Cook Islands, for a press conference which saw the prime ministers of both nations appeal for a successful outcome to this COP pow wow.

It must have been a brief affair but I had time to hear Fijian PM – and chair of the last COP meeting – Frank Bainimarama say: “This COP is a pivotal moment in human history. The world must take heed … of the IPCC 1.5C report and take dramatic and urgent steps to sanction the global agreement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our future is at stake – and we only have 12 years.”

Mr. Bainimarama notably refused to directly criticize nations who have committed to fresh fossil fuel investment, with a Guardian newspaper correspondent citing the U.S. and Australia as examples.

Asked about the issue, the Fijian PM said: “I have made a statement, we request everyone increases their ambition – and that goes for everyone. All countries.”

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna struck a positive note when asked by a representative of the Associated Press whether COP will succeed in the next 18 hours. He replied: “We always have hope, madam, If you were at the national statement session yesterday afternoon, it was encouraging to hear everybody singing to the same tune. So, we live in hope, yes.”

Change in the atmosphere

This is the first chance I’ve had to pause for breath after a frantic start to today’s proceedings which marks a noticeable rise in tension around the Katowice get-together.

With less than two days left, there is suddenly a sense of urgency and outside actors are doing their best to ratchet up the tension on the politicians trying to overcome the four laggards’ resistance in the pelnary sessions.

Using the unscientific yardstick of the morning coffee queues, there is a significantly smaller crowd of delegates in attendance – what that means for the chances of success, I’m not sure.

Last night saw the closure of the Tanaloa dialogue started a year ago in Fiji, which ended with the nations concerned urging their governments, businesses and civil society to adopt a roadmap to the Paris agreement.

Which is positive but is just more hot air, as the Maldives’  Mr. Nasheed noted. It felt like another of those ‘entmoot’ moments – like the moment in Lord of the Rings when Merry and Pippin, after days of anxious waiting eagerly attend the return of Treebeard, hoping for a decision on whether the ents will go to war and are told: “We have agreed … that you are indeed hobbits.”

Calling out the four recalcitrants

Emmanuel de Guzman went further, calling out the four nations – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and the U.S. – that are holding up the agreement of a rulebook for achieving the 2015 Paris agreement commitments, which is the purpose of this two-week meeting.

Mr. Guzman, Vice-chair of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission, said: “Now is the time to call out nations that do not stand with us. The world’s children will judge you … for what you have left undone.”

Referring to climate change as “the greatest peril humanity has ever faced”, Mr. De Guzman warned: “If this COP is incapable of sending a clear signal for all nations to enhance the ambition of their NDCs [nationally determined contributions] by 2020, the COP has failed the world’s most vulnerable.”

Costa Rica representative Pascal Girot also made a pointed reference to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait when he said quibbling about who was responsible for global warming, although an important point, should not be an excuse for a lack of action.

“It’s Thursday and every country here in Katowice needs to take a step back and truly remember why they’re here,” added Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace. “Humanity, that’s what’s at stake here.”

Asked by pv magazine afterwards if this COP will succeed, she said: “I sure hope so. It has to.”

A call to arms from the Maldives

Mohamed Naseeb, former President of the Maldives, made an impassioned plea to the world’s representatives at COP24 to get their act together.

Opening your remarks by pointing out that since your last appearance on the climate change stage you have been toppled by a coup, incarcerated and exiled, is sure to capture attention, and Mr. Naseeb was in a defiant mood, and espoused his nation’s ability to resume the battle against global warming.

“After again toppling a dictatorship, the Maldives are back,” he said. “We are not prepared to die and we have no intention of dying. We are not going to become the first victims of the climate crisis.

“The climate crisis is a national security issue for the Maldives, it is an existential threat for the Maldives.”

Mr. Naseeb highlighted current Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s “aggressive target to adopt solar power” but he also hit out at the frustratingly sluggish progress made by the world through the COP process.

“Since 2009, I must say, nothing much seems to have changed, we’re still using the same old language – a dinosaur language; still making the same tedious points, perhaps now it’s time to tell ourselves some hard truths. All we seem to be doing is talking and talking and talking – we are not winning the battle.

“Half of the battle is we are still begging the big leaders to stop polluting on ethical grounds. But they are not listening to us, they never were.”

Mr. Naseeb said it was time to stop appealing to the ethics of developed nations and, instead of demanding cuts in investments in fossil fuels, demanding hugely increased investments in renewable energy, with the aim of deflecting that cash away from polluting energy sources.

“We’ve spent 24 years on he same language, the same views. I have a daughter who is 21 – and we have not achieved anything. We’re unable to do anything. This conference, like the Paris conference is going to cost us around $60-70 million. Every year we are spending that and achieving nothing. It really is time for us to change our tactics, our strategies.”

Strong words

We have heard powerful words from the former President of the Maldives here at the Marshall Islands press conference, particularly about the failures of the COP program. Details to follow shortly.

Today’s highlights

Now I’m off to try and catch the tail end of a press conference by the Marshall Islands. Today’s other potential highlights include a similar talk from the EU, the seventh COP plenary – featuring the grown-ups – ‘planned relocation’ guidelines for Pacific island state nations and Europe’s vision of what a low carbon future looks like.

More from The Gore

For the solar world, of course, the remarks of Mr. Xie about his government’s plans for combating climate change are of far more interest than the main attraction this morning, and Al Gore warmed to the theme of Chinese leadership, especially regarding PV.

“I want to praise Chinese leadership,” said the world’s most visible climate change mitigation champion, to a rapt audience. “China is one of the few countries on track to meet its Paris commitments, and has already exceeded some of its targets, in regard to renewable energy.

“China has become the global leader in financing renewable energy. China invested [more than] $40 billion in clean energy around the world in 2017.

“Last year, China added more solar electric generation – 53 GW – than any other country had in total,” added Mr. Gore, underestimating China’s solar success by 4 GW.

“China also accounted for 60% of all global solar cell production. The world would not be as far along as it is [towards its climate change goals] except for what China has done.

“In electric cars and buses, Shanghai and Shenzhen already buy only electric buses. Energy storage is also a prominent field of Chinese investment.”

Mr. Gore went on to rehash sections of yesterday’s keynote speech in one of the venue’s main halls, including repeating his hands together in prayer after stating the possibility of Trump being replaced in two years' time. He concluded by stating “it will be China and the U.S.” that lead the global low carbon transition, again begging the question, is that because he’ll be in the White House in the not-too distant future?

China offers hopeful signals

Good morning readers. Apologies for the late start here in Katowice but as I was walking the floors first thing, I stumbled upon a packed crowd at the China pavilion where, as previously noted, there is a wifi blocker in operation.

Having had to hand in my press pass in exchange for a translation device, it quickly became obvious the scrum of media spilling outside the small area was not here to listen to Chinese government representative Xie Zhenhua, but because climate rock star Al Gore was in the audience and preparing to take the stage.

Mr Xie was expounding upon Chinese progress in combating climate change, and pointed out: “For China to achieve our 2030 climate goals, we will create 69 million jobs. The government needs to advance policies to support the process. We are promoting green finance, green bonds, green insurance and green investment.” As if to stress the point, there was a gentleman standing near me who had colored his greying hair a vivid, Hulk-like green.

Mr Xie continued: “The statistics show green finance has amounted to RMB1.5 trillion.”

With fewer delegates present today, the representative for climate change affairs in China added: “Negotiations are at a critical point at the moment, we need all societies to take part in the process, bring more pressure to the governments and support the multilateral mechanisms. [That is] the effective and right way to move forward.”

It was a pointed reference to resistance to adopting a global pathway towards a temperature rise of no more than 1.5C being offered by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and the U.S. and particularly to American President Donald Trump, who has made no bones about his disdain for multilateral organizations.

Mr. Xie’s remarks come amid reports UN Secretary-General António Guterres was last night preparing to call Chinese premier Xi Jinping to urge China to fill the void left by the lack of U.S. leadership in reaching a successful conclusion to this year’s summit.