When they arrived in Katowice, Poland, delegates to the Conference of the Parties (COP) confronted a momentus task. Following on the heels of the gravest warnings yet from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Katowice summit needed to send an unequivocal signal about governments’ intent to redouble their responses to the urgency and severity of the climate crisis. Yet against the backdrop of receding multilateralism, the conditions for delivering on this imperative were less than ideal.

What were the outcomes?

The authors conclude that the Katowice Conference delivered most – though not all – of the elements needed to ensure an implementable Paris Agreement. The rules produced in Katowice represent an important step in multilateral climate diplomacy and the shared goal of a functioning Paris regime, they argue, and the package that emerged is even more significant because of the challenging context in which it was negotiated.

At the same time, they emphasize that deeper and much more profound issues continue to haunt international climate change action. Global CO2 emissions are on the rise. Evidence suggests that the environmental and economic costs of global warming at or exceeding 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial-level temperatures; meanwhile, countries’ current climate pledges put the earth on a pathway to experience a rise of more than 3 degrees Celsius. Thus, the authors argue, it is impossible to ignore the possibility that the larger war against dangerous climate change faces a real and ever-increasing risk of being lost.

Without bolder action on the ground, the long-term temperature limits agreed in Paris are further out of reach in the wake of the Katowice conference. The authors conclude that now is the time for governments to focus their efforts on delivering the real-world changes that could bend the curve on climate change.