Cop25 failure

Climate change negotiators fail the world


December 15, 2019

/ By / New Delhi

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UN security try to clear protesters during a protest at COP25 to draw attention to the climate emergency

The Cop25 negotiations in Madrid ended in a failure as global leaders try to kick the climate change can down an inexistant road.

On Sunday, after having extended the negotiations at the Cop25 Summit on climate change by nearly 40 hours, when Carola Schmidt, the President of meeting finally addressed her last press conference in Madrid there was little to show for two weeks of non-stop negotiations in what was termed as the final chance to save the world from hurtling down the path.

Despite attempts to save face by claiming that a compromise had been reached in face of extreme differences between countries at the Madrid meeting, all that Cop25 negotiators had managed was to kick the can of worms down the road, until the next meeting, Cop26, slated to be held in Glasgow in November 2020.

The collapse in Madrid was hardly a surprise as instead of making progress towards meeting their commitments as part of the Paris Agreement reached in December 2015, most countries have actually moved backwards, registering a sharp rise in carbon emissions and little will displayed by the political or business leaders to take the harsh steps that are needed to curb the emissions.

Though it is often called a milestone in the battle to save the planet, Paris Agreement had numerous loopholes, many of which have been exposed over the past four years. The biggest weakness of Paris lies in the absence of any monitoring as well as rules to ensure that the countries actually go on and do what they had committed to do in Paris. These rules were meant to be finalised at the Cop24 in Katowice in 2018 and to be implemented from 2020. However, not only were the rules not finalised last year, the meeting in Madrid, too, failed and now the issue has been kept on the agenda for the next Cop in Glasgow in 2020.

However, there is a very strong chance that even Glasgow would fail to produce any tangible results as the positions of various key countries remain as far apart as possible on crucial subjects like differentiated commitments by the developed and developing world, the role of carbon trading and creation of a global carbon market and the developed world meeting its commitments for financing clean development mechanism or technological implementation of measures that would curb emissions in the developing nations.

While the developing nations led by India insist that the developed countries first fulfill their older commitment of financing the developing world in its battle to fight climate change. The developing countries point out that the developed countries are forcing the developing nations to adopt extremely tough commitments, at par with the rich countries, even though the cost of these measures would be immense and beyond the reach of the developing world. The poorer countries also point out that on a per capita basis, the only fair measure of comparisons in carbon emissions, they are still a fraction of the richer countries and hence instead of looking just at overall emissions per nation, the world community needs to look at per capita emissions.

Another contentious issue that the Cop25 has pushed back for next year is the fate of the global carbon market. For nearly a decade, carbon markets have been in place, but have proven to be highly ineffective in combatting rising emissions. Climate change is not a business, it can not be tackled by putting an artificial price on emissions. Governments need to put in place rules to ensure that businesses actually cut their emissions, instead of ‘buying credits’ by planting trees in a remote country or by emitting on behalf of poorer countries who are anyway in no state to consume their quota.

The expectations from the Madrid meeting were not very high despite all the warnings delivered by climate change activists and some leaders that the time to hesitate or take half-hearted steps had indeed run out and that Madrid needed to come with nothing but extremely ambitious commitments by all nations to cut their carbon emissions even more rapidly than what they had agreed to in the Paris meeting in December 2015.

Not that any of the delegates from any country’s delegation needed to be delivered those warnings. Nature has been very effectively and uniformly driving home the message about the serious damage that climate change can indeed bring to any country and in any form. No part of the world remains unscathed today as damages through wildfires, soaring temperatures, melting snows, retreating glaciers, rising seas and increasing ferocity of floods – the havoc wreaked by climate change now causes annual damages of over USD 300 billion, in addition to thousands of deaths, most of which could have been mitigated, if not entirely avoided had action to fight climate change begun in earnest.

Time is slipping by ever faster but the global business and political leaders continue to procrastinate on this crucial issue. The can of worms that climate change negotiations have become has been kicked down the road yet again, even though the end of the road is nigh.

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