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Conference of Parties (COP) 25 is on in Madrid. The COP25 is going through discussions and debates. Problems are raised and solutions are sought in the COP. Prospects are searched while promises are made in the conference. But, the outcome of the COP25 may not be hopeful.

Political leaders and climate diplomats are meeting in Madrid for two weeks of talks amid a growing sense of crisis.

The COP25 was due to be held in Chile, but was cancelled by the government due to weeks of civil disturbances.

Spain stepped in to host the event, which will see 29,000 attendees over the two weeks of talks.

The COP25 meeting aims to step up ambition so that all countries increase their national commitments to cut emissions. The meeting follows on the heels of three UN reports, which stressed the increased urgency of limiting dangerous climate change.

Almost every country in the world has now signed and ratified the Paris climate agreement. Under the terms of the pact these countries will have to put new climate pledges on the table before the end of 2020.

However, the U.S. has recently informed its withdrawal from the climate accord. Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump began the process of withdrawing from the Paris deal.

The climate crisis is increasing every moment, and life on this planet is facing the threat of extinction.

Stop digging and drilling

According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon”.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, he said political leaders had to respond to the imminent climate crisis.

“In the crucial 12 months ahead, it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments – particularly from the main emitters – to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions,” said Guterres.

Guterres also called for more action from the U.S., the world’s second biggest emitter, warning that some of the world’s biggest economies were failing to cut carbon fast enough.

“We see already strong commitment from many governments and the business and financial community – the problem is that the most important polluters, the countries that have the biggest [emissions of] greenhouse gases are lagging behind.”

He praised the EU for its plans to cut emissions drastically by 2030, and cited China, India, Japan and the US as countries needing to join in to meet the challenge.

“This is also an issue for public opinion, for youth and civil society, for cities and regions – we see everywhere a new determination that makes me hopeful,” he added. “I’m hopeful, but not yet entirely sure as there is still a long way to go and we are still lagging behind.”

Ministers and officials from more than 190 countries gathered in Madrid on Monday for the start of two weeks of talks aimed at ironing out technical details of the 2015 Paris agreement, which needs to be completed for nations to focus on the progress on cutting carbon emissions.

Some 50 world leaders are expected to attend the meeting in Madrid. But U.S. President Donald Trump will not be among them.

Activists and campaigners assembled inside the conference and outside, but there was a lack of the pageantry and passion that have characterized recent COPs, galvanized by the signing of the Paris accord in 2016, seen as paving the way to international cooperation and preventing dangerous temperature rises.

The U.S. will continue to have a seat at the table of UN climate negotiations, as Trump has not withdrawn from the foundational treaty, called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Several countries including Australia, Brazil and the US have elected leaders hostile to the Paris accord and action on emissions.

The COP25 signals the start of a frantic 12 months of negotiations, which will culminate in Glasgow with COP26 in November next year.

The U.S. became a signatory to the landmark Paris climate agreement in April 2016, under the Obama administration. But President Trump has said the accord would lead to lost jobs and lower wages for U.S. workers.

However, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will attend the conference with a congressional delegation.

While her presence has been welcomed, U.S. environmentalists want to see concrete steps on climate.

“While it’s great Speaker Pelosi is coming to Madrid in place of Trump, symbolic gestures are no substitute for bold action,” said Jean Su from the U.S. Center for Biological Diversity.

“America remains the number one historic contributor to the climate emergency, and even Democratic politicians have never committed to taking responsibility for our fair share.”

U.S. Congress commits to act on climate crisis

The U.S. will take action on greenhouse gases and engage with other countries on the climate emergency despite Donald Trump’s rejection of international cooperation, a delegation from the U.S. Congress has told the COP25.

Nancy Pelosi struck a defiant stance on Monday, declaring: “Congress’s commitment to action on the climate crisis is iron-clad. This is a matter of public health, of clean air, of clean water, of our children, of the survival of our economies, of the prosperity of the world, of national security, justice and equality. We now must deliver deeper cuts in emissions.”

Her rallying call came as developing countries accused the U.S. president of “ecocide” and the UN secretary-general said the world’s biggest emitters were falling behind.

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is a contentious issue, which will occupy climate diplomats in the COP25 more than any other issue. Resolving Article 6, only two pages long and fails to describe how these systems will work and what rules will ensure to emissions cuts, is a major challenge for the COP25.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to set up a new global carbon market system to help countries decarbonise their economies at lower cost.

Countries have tried and failed to agree the rules governing this mechanism. It is the last section of the Paris accord rulebook which remains unresolved and it has the potential to make or break efforts to curb emissions.

The framework defined by Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is divided into three sections.

Article 6.2 allows countries to strike bilateral and voluntary agreements to trade carbon units.

Article 6.4 creates a centralized governance system for countries and the private sector to trade emissions reduction anywhere in the world. This system known as the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) is due to replace the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), established under the Kyoto Protocol.

Finally, Article 6.8 develops a framework for cooperation between countries to reduce emissions outside market mechanisms, such as aid.

Under the Paris Agreement, a share of proceeds from the markets needs to be deployed to help developing countries adapt to climate impacts. Whether this applies to the centralized SDM market only or to all trading, including from bilateral agreements has not yet been agreed.

In an open letter to COP25 president and Chile’s environment minister Carolina Schmidt, more than 150 NGOs have called for the creation of a specific financing facility and debt relief to help vulnerable countries recover from loss and damage impacts. They argued regular contributions from wealthy countries and global taxes on financial transactions, international air travel and fossil fuels should finance the fund.

The letter comes after a report by a coalition of climate and environmental organizations estimated rich countries should provide an additional $50 billion per year by 2022 and $300 billion annually by 2030 to address loss and damage.

The WIM

The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) – the 2013 international framework to address loss and damage –– is up for review in the COP25.

The framework intended that developed countries provide developing countries with finance, technology and capacity-building to help victims of climate change recover after extreme weather events or slower-onset climate disasters such as sea-level rise.

The WIM review is likely to see disagreements between rich and vulnerable countries at the COP25.

Tens of millions of people threatened

A report from Save the Children, says that what it calls “climate shocks” are threatening tens of millions of people in East and Southern Africa.

The NGO says 33 million people are at emergency levels of food insecurity due to cyclones and droughts. More than half of these are believed to be children.

Fight to the death

The president of an island nation on the frontline of climate crisis says the country is in a “fight to the death” after freak waves inundated the capital.

Powerful swells averaging 5m washed across the capital of the Marshall Islands, Majuro, last week.

President Hilda Heine said the Pacific nation had been fighting rising tides even before last week’s disaster.

At the meeting, Ms Heine commented: “Water covers much of our land at one or other point of the year as we fight rising tides. As we speak hundreds of people have evacuated their homes after large waves caused the ocean to inundate parts of our capital in Majuro last week.”

She added: “It’s a fight to the death for anyone not prepared to flee. As a nation we refuse to flee. But we also refuse to die.”

At the Madrid summit, ambassador Lois Young, from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which represents low-lying coastal countries and small island nations, launched a rebuke to the world’s big polluters.

“We are disappointed by inadequate action by developed countries and outraged by the dithering and retreat of one of the most culpable polluters from the Paris Agreement,” she said.

“In the midst of a climate emergency, retreat and inaction are tantamount to sanctioning ecocide. They reflect profound failure to honor collective global commitment to protect the most vulnerable.

“With our very existence at stake, COP 25 must demonstrate unprecedented ambition to avert ecocide.”


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