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Coalition of countries pledge to increase climate ambitions by 2020

A coalition of nearly two dozen countries pledged to increase their climate ambitions by 2020 and called for other nations to promise to do the same to help halt global warming.

The High Ambition Coalition, primarily comprised of European, Latin American and small island nations, issued a statement Dec. 12 during climate talks in Poland. It said the countries are "determined to step up our ambition by 2020," including by boosting their goals under the Paris Agreement on climate change, taking more short-term actions and engaging in long-term strategies for developing low emission technologies.

Ministers and other officials that signed the deal were from Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, the European Union, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Italy, Jamaica, the Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Mexico, the Principality of Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Notably missing from the pledge is Poland, which is hosting and leading the 24th annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, more commonly referred to as COP24.

However, COP24 President Michał Kurtyka of Poland and a Fiji minister on the closing day of related informal national ambition discussions known as the Talanoa Dialogue issued a Talanoa Call for Action for governments and the private sector to step up action in 2020. The year-long ambition talks concluded at COP24 on Dec. 12, three days ahead of when negotiators are hoping to hash out an implementation rulebook for the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which aims to limit global warming ideally to 1.5 degrees C and to 2 degrees at the most.

The parties to the Paris Agreement launched the Talanoa Dialogue in 2017 to begin assessing how close they are to meeting their initial pledges and thinking about increasing their goals in 2020, which is the first year in which nations will have the option to announce new targets. Under the Paris accord, countries agreed to increase their climate ambitions over time with the understanding that their initial pledges, the ones in place today, would not be enough.

"Climate action is on the rise but not on the scale and speed we need," Kurtyka said at the closing session of the Talanoa Dialogue.

Adding pressure to those discussions is a recent report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, that found the world effectively has until 2030, much earlier than previously thought, to significantly reduce emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C. But global emissions climbed in 2017 and are expected to have climbed again in 2018 and the U.S.'s refusal along with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to endorse the IPCC report at the COP24 meetings indicates big challenges remain in getting all of the countries that signed the Paris accord to agree to ratchet up their goals in 2020.

At the closing session of the Talanoa Dialogue, U.N. Secretary António Guterres challenged countries and the private sector "to accelerate and finish the job and to raise ambition on all fronts. To waste this opportunity in Katowice would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change."

Guterres has invited heads of state to attend a U.N. climate summit in New York City in September 2019 that will largely focus on stepping up ambitions in 2020 and increasing private sector participation.

The Talanoa Dialogue was also the first time under the Paris Agreement in which the private sector and smaller governments were invited to participate in the discussions.