COP25 fails to make impact, rich polluters block changes
The two-week-long talks, defined as “disappointing” and “unfortunate” by delegates at the closing session of the negotiations, concluded on Sunday after deliberations went into overtime of nearly 48 hours after the official November 13 deadline.Updated: Dec 16, 2019 07:01 IST
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) at Madrid failed to build consensus on crucial issues of carbon markets, compensation for climate change induced ‘loss and damage’ to vulnerable countries and enhancing nationally determined contribution (NDCs) by parties to meet the Paris Agreement goals.
The talks which concluded on Sunday after negotiations were pushed into an overtime of nearly 48 hours couldn’t make progress because some rich countries failed to recognise the urgency of climate change according to observers.
“Disappointment” and “unfortunate” were the key words used by almost every other party negotiator at the closing plenary on Sunday afternoon. Ironically COP 25 had a tagline of #TimeforAction.
“I am disappointed with the results of #COP25. The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis. But we must not give up, and I will not give up” tweeted Antonio Guterres, Secretary General, United Nations.
Civil society organizations and independent observers of the negotiations said the failure in making progress was mainly owing to big polluters including the United States, Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia blocking and slowing down discussions on both loss and damage and carbon markets covered under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and not responding to the call to enhance NDCs in 2020.
On markets, the red lines were that some countries led by Brazil pushed for double counting to be allowed. When one country sells emissions reductions to another, it must adjust its own emissions data accordingly so that sellers don’t get credit twice on the work they did on the same project. But they insisted that those be counted.
Carry over of Kyoto era carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism which India, China and Brazil were demanding was a major red line for the European Union and other developed parties. In short, the parties failed to develop a cheating proof, collapse proof system which has environmental integrity and actually manages to mitigate overall global emissions.
“Carbon market mechanisms have had a history of human rights violations. They have been ineffective at reducing emissions. They delay the action and ambition needed here and now. There is no longer time for inaction. During the talks, Australia, EU, US and Canada attempted to ram through rules rife with major loopholes that would have locked us into further emissions and derail us from the 1.5 degree commitment. Such loopholes include double counting, no core regulations for accounting, and no human rights or environmental safeguards,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan of the Corporate Accountability watchdog over phone from Madrid.
There was also no decision on long-term climate finance (financial support from developed countries to developing countries). The failure on this sparked anguish among several developing parties. “Today we are not even able to affirm the importance of climate finance. When we ratified the Paris Agreement, we didn’t expect this. Some parties are backsliding on the Paris Agreement,” Egypt’s negotiator said. India had also been demanding a clear decision on this one and pre-2020 commitment of developed nations on mobilizing 100 billion dollars by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation. Article 6 was a crucial issue for India because it has a backlog of millions of unsold credits from CDM.
On reparations to be paid to countries facing irreversible impacts like sea level rise, deadly cyclones, severe heat waves etc, United States allegedly lobbied to escape any liability to pay up. Tuvalu negotiator Ian Fry said “We have had one party who has been insisting that the WIM (Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage) only operates under the Paris Agreement. This party (US) won’t be a party to the Paris Agreement in a few months. It’s a travesty and tragedy…could be interpreted as a crime against humanity.”
The draft text on loss and damage talks about scaling up finance and technology support but fails to underline the need for additional finance for compensation.
“These talks are ending with a strong sense of déjà vu. The US has once again gotten its way through bullying and tricks...this decision only offers statements of intent, working groups and networks, which should have been in place years ago,” said Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s global lead on climate change.
The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) tweeted on Saturday that developed and some developing countries met on Article 6 and carryover old credits but didn’t inform the least developed nations about it.
The master text for COP25 captured in draft decision CP 25 also failed articulate the urgency for action. It has sentences like “Stresses the urgency of enhanced ambition in order to ensure the highest possible mitigation and adaptation efforts by all Parties.”…” Recalls the commitment made by developed country Parties, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020…” Parties said the language was too weak and didn’t provide hope that these would be delivered on in the future.
This despite leaders from vulnerable countries and the Climate Ambition Alliance (group of countries willing to enhance NDCs to meet Paris goal) demanding on Friday that they will not leave Madrid without a very clear call to raise ambition in ine with the IPCC special report on 1.5 degree global warming. The master document only invites parties to make use of information contained in the Special Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Land degradation and Oceans.
“The result of this COP25 is really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed. Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations, but thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO European Climate Foundation and Paris Agreement Architect in a statement.