Despite being the longest-ever conference in its 25 years of existence, the 2019 UNFCCC Conference of the Parties has been disappointingly slow in making any sort of meaningful progress. Ending on December 15th more than 40 hours behind schedule, COP25 will go down in history as a failure of the world’s governments to properly address the climate crisis despite it being in its most dire state yet.
What is COP25? How useful was COP25?
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Why Chile announced not hosting COP25
The conference was originally set to take place in Chile, however, violent anti-government protests led to Chile’s president Sebastian Pinera announcing in late October that his country would not be able to host the conference. As a result, Spain stepped in and agreed to host the 25th COP, leading to almost 27,000 delegates flocking into the Spanish capital in early December to prepare for what would become two weeks of muddled negotiations and slow progress in a time where the world was counting on exactly the opposite.
What was the main goal behind COP25?
One of the main goals of this conference was to finalize some of the remaining issues of the Paris Agreement, including guidelines for setting up a global carbon trading system in addition to a system through which new finances would be channelled to the developing countries facing the impacts of climate change. Additionally, it was hoped that the participants would revise the pledges they had made in 2015 in Paris and “update” their ambitions just in time for the new decade. Very little of the above was achieved as countless hours were wasted negotiating technicalities and offloading responsibilities to the coming meeting, COP26.
Some progress in the form of a minor breakthrough was made with the decision of a new, five-year gender action plan. Its purpose is to “aid the implementation of gender-related choices and mandates within the UNFCCC method,” and “seeks to enhance ladies’ complete, equal and meaningful participation and promote gender-responsive climate policy and the mainstreaming of a gender attitude” as in line with the original plan agreed upon in COP20. Such a plan, if properly implemented and maintained, would be a welcome addition to the current social and political framework for supporting efforts to combat climate change globally.
What are the concerns around COP25?
A major concern highlighted by many who attended this year’s conference was the disconnect between what is being demanded by citizens and scientists around the world, and the efforts being made by global powers behind the closed doors of the conference. As Sonam P Wangdi, chair of the LDCs puts it, “There is a vast disconnect between the urgency we are feeling at home and the pace of these negotiations.” This feeling is shared by the executive director of Greenpeace, Jennifer Morgan, who told the press, “In the 25 years that I have been at every COP, I have never seen the gap bigger between the inside and the outside.” She further added that despite the fresh momentum provided by the global climate movement, it was yet to penetrate the “halls of power.”
A representative of the Climate Action Network also expressed his particular disappointment in the world’s most polluting countries during the conference’s combined closing plenary session by adding, “We witness an almost complete absence of ambition and urgency from all large emitters.”
What does Developing feel about COP25?
Similarly, many developing countries have expressed their frustration that rich countries haven’t lived up to the climate action they promised up to 2020.
Feelings of disappointment, frustration, and betrayal were apparent in the large protests that marched through the Spanish capital and other cities around the world, even reaching the halls of the conference where 200 climate campaigners were ejected from the venue following a protest in which they expressed frustration at the lack of progress being made.
Shortly after the conference’s conclusion, UN secretary-general, António Guterres wrote on Twitter he was “disappointed with the results of #COP25”, adding that “the international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and finance to tackle the climate crisis.” With a touch of hope, he ended the tweet by claiming “we must not give up, and I will not give up.”
What’s after COP25?
There are now even higher hopes for the next Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Dublin in November of 2020. We must demand more ambition and commitment by the world’s nations, and especially by the largest polluting countries if we are to curb carbon dioxide emissions and global warming to acceptable levels by 2030. With 2020 now a reality instead of a distant future, we must collectively ensure that we do not relive the mistakes of the past decade in this upcoming one.