Nearly 200 countries have agreed on a set of rules to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, a crucial step in implementing the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.
The rules describe in detail how countries will track their emissions and communicate with each other about their progress in the coming years and decades. But it stops short of committing them to the more ambitious emissions reductions necessary to slow climate change.
The meeting in the heart of Poland's coal country unfolded in the shadow of a stark scientific reality about the threat posed by rising temperatures and in the midst of global political upheaval. In the months leading up to the meeting, a series of reports from the world's scientists showed that global emissions are not just continuing to rise, but that nations are not on track to limit the rise of global temperatures enough to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
On the political front, President Trump says he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement and has engaged China in a trade war; Brazil's new president-elect has signaled he may no longer support the agreement; and leaders in Europe are struggling with domestic challenges, including the recent "Yellow Vest" protests in France over fuel taxes.
In that context, some observers were cautiously optimistic about the outcome of this week's U.N. climate talks in the city of Katowice. "Particularly given the broader geopolitical context, this is a pretty solid outcome," said Elliot Diringer, the executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. "It delivers what we need to get the Paris Agreement off the ground."