A wide range of scientists, engineers and thinkers agree that we have the technological capacity to stem global warming, keeping temperatures below the 1.5°C target that scientists warn would bring some of the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
This is the challenge that has drawn thousands of politicians, policymakers, scientists and advocates from around the world here to Katowice, Poland, this month for the most significant United Nations climate conference since the landmark gathering that resulted in the Paris Agreement in 2015. The more than 20,000 people assembled in this industrial city at the heart of Polish coal industry will play a pivotal role keeping the Paris Agreement on track to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, leading climate officials say. Failure could derail the delicate multilateral process that has taken decades to reach this point.
“After three years we’re still negotiating the work plan to deliver on the Paris Agreement,” María Fernanda Espinosa, president of the U.N. General Assembly, tells TIME. “We really need some political traction and some real commitment.”
The key issue at hand is the so-called rulebook, a technical document that lays out how countries report on their progress to address climate change. Do developing countries have to abide by the same standards as their wealthy counterparts? How can we ensure that the reporting is transparent? The questions may sound simple, but they’re enough to flummox seasoned climate policy experts whose views vary wildly.
And, climate negotiators warn that if the rulebook doesn’t come together, countries may not be willing to commit to take bigger steps to reduce their emissions.