I remember reading articles after the COP in Paris in 2015, where the international community and UNFCCC was praised on all platforms for reaching an agreement that looked like real progress was being made in undoing the wrong that had been done to the environment through human advancement. However, Helen Mountford, the VP of WRI was accurate in saying that “The can-do spirit that birthed the Paris Agreement feels like a distant memory today.”
COP25 in Madrid was focused around the idea of raising ambitions. Yet, the lack of significant progress on reaching a consensus on key issues such as loss and damage and the coveted Article 6 that devises a plan for international carbon markets only highlights the international division and a lack of momentum that threaten all and any effort in reaching the goal set out by scientists. While hopes were high that this COP would be able to make significant progress on these matters, the results leave one wondering if climate action can ever be separated from political agendas and if countries will be able to come to a consensus on a combined effort to combat this inevitable threat.
It was interesting how while 200+ nations coming together at the COP in Madrid, the real effort was being made in Brussels, where most of the EU leaders came together to pledge a net zero carbon footprint by 2050. With the IPCC sharing reports on the ongoing threats to food and water supplies due to changes in climate, and all hands-on-deck situation is necessary to start the process of change. Sadly, however, the governments of some of the major emitters in the world such as USA and Australia still do not believe in the concept of climate change. We really do have a long way to go.
With this COP unable to reach the goals it had set; all eyes are now set on COP26 in Glasgow. 2020 being the final year for the current term of the Kyoto Protocol to end, it would be devastating if the Paris rulebook is not completed in time and the Kyoto regime continues. I learned from some of the side-events I attended on carbon markets that if the CDM and Kyoto credits are allowed to carry on, each country could do nothing for the next 3 years and still meet their NDCs as defined by the Paris Agreement. It is frightening to think what would happen if countries are given that chance, especially with the IPCC reports talking about the need to reduce emissions by 7.4% yearly from 2020 to hit the 1.5-degree mark.
I won’t lie, with outcomes like these, it does kill the buzz of excitement and hope created when I left after week 1 when there was still some hope of reaching consensus on certain matters. The UK presidency really has their work cut out for themselves, especially the newly elected prime minister that will need to set an example for other developed countries to rise together in raised ambition toward tackling what is clearly becoming the biggest global threat of our time.