First impressions from COP25

December 4, 2019

Impressions from my first day in Madrid. Firstly, the voices of young people are being heard for the first time at a COP.


In Copenhagen 2009 the main group of people outside the formal negotiations were NGOs. Then in Paris 2015 businesses were making themselves heard as well. This time, in Madrid, young people are on panels and youth campaigns are being referred to by many speakers.


Secondly, the tone is serious, it’s about life and death.


Representatives from island nations, such as the Marshall Islands, have given prominent and powerful speeches. For them the basics of survival are under threat already today: food, water, land and housing. Court cases at all levels – local, national and international – are being prepared by groups in different parts of the world and several speeches today, from sobre-looking panelists, included the words “this is not acceptable.”


Thirdly, the corporate sector is stepping up.


In 2015 in Paris the corporate sector was finding its voice and “non-state actors” were written into the agreement. Since then business initiatives have proliferated: Science-Based Targets, Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative, the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures and many more.  It’s companies that are setting targets in line with 1,5 degree warming, while countries’ reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement are taking us towards 3 degrees of warming.


Fourthly, there are good examples in unexpected places.


Costa Rica for instance started a carbon neutral programme for companies in 2012. The requirements for certification are stringent (ISO standards), the government is training accreditors, doing LCAs and working on Product Category Rules for events. Impressive.


Lastly for today, there’s little optimism about the negotiations.


Commentators’ expectations are low. A focus of the negotiations between the countries is getting the details for Article 6 (international mechanisms) in place, a task that’s already been delayed several times. Unfortunately it seems that countries’ negotiating positions are far apart, experts are warning strongly against some proposals, and article 6 is intricately linked to other parts of the agreement, making it very difficult to resolve key issues.


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