Never-before-seen disconnect between what climate science and people demand and what governments deliver on display at the summit
The 25th Conference of Parties (CoP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Madrid, the longest in history, ended in deadlock and disappointment over most of the contentious issues, on December 15.
It would not be a long shot to call the CoP 25 in Madrid a failure. The disappointment among developing and least developed countries (LDCs), many of them highly vulnerable to the ongoing impacts of climate change such as extreme rainfall, sea level rise and tropical cyclones, has been regarding matters of climate finance for adaptation, loss and damage and enhanced nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
These issues were of critical importance at this CoP, along with resolving the outstanding issues with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which deals with the establishment and functioning of carbon markets, the shares of proceeds from which had to feed into finances for mitigation, adaptation and implementation.
The slow progress on these issues at the CoP 25 witnessed wide spread protests from youth, women and indigenous peoples' groups and other prominent environmental groups like the Climate Action Network (CAN) both inside the conference venue and outside it.
In fact, on December 11, around 200 protestors belonging to the above groups were thrown out of the venue for protesting against the inaction from the government negotiators. All these demands for urgency of action and calls for climate justice did not permeate through the walls of the negotiation rooms or the minds of the negotiators sitting inside them. Most of them stuck to their historical stands on all the issues making progress difficult.
“CAN has followed these climate negotiations since they started in 1991 and never before witnessed such a disconnection between what the science and the people demand and what governments are delivering,” the representative of CAN said at the combined closing plenary session of the CoP 25, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol 15 (CMP15) and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement 2 (CMA2), which was held from the morning of December 15.
“We witness an almost complete absence of ambition and urgency from all large emitters. And then to hear that one country blocked language on addressing these gaps is obnoxious. The arrogance to block progress while leaving the Paris Agreement is treacherous,” he further added, perhaps referring to the United States (US), which had made last minute interventions in various matters especially regarding climate financing, eventually blocking them.
One of these issues was that of long-term climate financing which was agreed upon by countries in the meeting rooms but the text was changed when it was introduced in the closing plenary. Many countries, including Egypt, expressed confusion over the deleted language after which the CoP president, Carolina Schmidt, announced that the matter had not reached conclusion and will be taken up at the session when the parties will meet.
The CAN representative also pointed a more glaring concern of “the exclusion of vulnerable countries from key negotiations and call on future presidencies to ensure full inclusiveness.”
The only saving graces at the conference were the adoption of the new five-year gender action plan by the CoP and its establishment as well as the establishment of Expert Group and the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage under the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM).
But the latter of these came with a caveat of the concern over the governance of the WIM on which no decision was taken at this CoP. While many of the countries like Bhutan said that the WIM should serve both the UNFCCC and the CMA, the US was opposed to this as it would not be a part of the CMA when it leaves the Paris Agreement next year.
Here too, the text was changed at the last minute to remove the liability of the developed countries as historical polluters. The representative from Tuvalu called it “a crime against humanity” and “an absolute tragedy.”
"There is a vast disconnect between the urgency we are feeling at home and the pace of these negotiations,” Sonam P Wangdi, chair of the LDCs said in a statement.
“We have seen floods in Mozambique and Malawi, droughts in Senegal and the Gambia, and flooding in Bangladesh and Nepal. These disasters have killed thousands, wiped away homes and communities, destroyed farms and crops. Scientists say it is only going to get worse. More climate action and support is urgently needed, not less. But here, some countries seem to be working to limit their obligations under the Convention and the Paris Agreement,” he added.
Regarding Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, he said that “these rules must ensure environmental integrity and deliver overall mitigation in global emissions. We're disappointed with the lack of willingness by some parties to work together to ensure environmental integrity, to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable communities, and to build upon rather than undermine the Paris Agreement, including resources for the Adaptation Fund”.
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