Joydeep Gupta 16.12.2019
The Madrid summit reached no consensus on carbon markets, paying for climate-related loss and damage or long-term finance for developing countries
Climate change hit the world with unprecedented ferocity in 2019 – through heat waves, storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and avalanches. At the end of the same year, all progress under the UN system on dealing with climate change was halted by governments that insisted on business as usual.
Earlier this year, climate activist Greta Thunberg had told governments “We’re watching you.” Towards the end of the plenary session of the annual UN climate summit, an indigenous rights activist from New Zealand demanded that governments “get out of the way” of climate action.
It was an inglorious end to a summit that had started with the hashtag “time for action” but failed to see any, despite closed door negotiations that delayed the final plenary session by 40 hours – another dubious record.
This 25th summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP25) had five major objectives: restarting the international carbon market; finding money to deal with the loss and damage being caused by climate change now; making a roadmap for long-term finance from developed to developing countries; holding developed countries to account for climate actions they are supposed to have taken before the Paris Agreement comes into force; and to integrate gender, human rights and indigenous rights components into all climate actions.
In the first four it failed totally. It did manage to approve a gender action plan but could not agree on human rights overall and the rights of indigenous peoples in particular.
COP25 had been shifted from Santiago to Madrid due to the unrest in Chile, but Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s environment minister, remained its president. Towards the end of the plenary session, even she was expressing her “deep disappointment”. Not since 2009 in Copenhagen has a UN climate summit ended in such failure.
What does it mean?
The 2015 Paris Agreement to control carbon emissions and adapt to climate impacts will come into force as scheduled on January 1, 2020. But it will be hobbled by lack of money. Pledges by most developing countries to the agreement depend on money from industrialised countries, which has not been arranged.