The Conference of the Partners to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24 of the UNFCCC) took place from 3 to 14 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland. The conference had many objectives, only partially achieved. Above all, it was about the urgency of implementing the Paris Agreement, which unfortunately saw the withdrawal of the United States and of limiting global warming to well below 2°C. But there was another recurrent theme: that of ensuring a ‘just transition’ towards a low-carbon economy. The term ‘just transition’ was used by Dr. Ajay Gambhir Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. In his opinion, this is the key to securing a sustainable, resilient, low-carbon future. In this regard, the data are unfortunately not encouraging because the emissions of carbon dioxide – after three years of stasis – have started to grow again in 2017. Obviously, the transition from the current economy – still based on fossil fuels – to a low carbon emissions economy is neither simple nor cheap nor painless. It will involve the development of large, green industries that will use renewable energy. They will be characterized by energy efficiency, alternative transport and heating technologies and increased circular economy practices with less waste of resources. At the same time, however, the decline of some fossil-fuel industries will occur. We have already seen strong impacts in the coal mining sector, due to the transition to gas and renewable energy. A holistic approach to the problem must take into consideration the repercussions on employment by providing re-training and new employment opportunities for the workers. ‘Opportunity for all’ is the essence of a just transition. The principles underpinning this transition will include the need for dialogue amongst all stakeholders involved, stable and coherent policies around rights at work, education and training and the creation of decent jobs. Other transformations of this kind occurred in the past, when the most polluting or dangerous industries such as the ones producing asbestos were closed. We can draw lessons from those experiences. To return to the work of the summit, there were 17 interventions by distinguished speakers, dealing with different topics, from emissions to the energy systems. The complete list is published on the site of the Imperial College London – Grantham Institute. Let’s finish with an answer to a (possible) question of the readers. But, all in all, was this convention successful or not, in other words, was it beneficial for the environment? In the end, a compromise was reached among the 198 participating nations to carry on the process started with the Paris Agreement so as to make it executive in two years. Of course all the thorniest issues have been shelved. However, for the time being, let us be satisfied. The glass is half full or half empty depending on the point of view and it could have been even be worse.
12 March 2019