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COP25 closes with pacts to promote climate ambition in 2020

The UNFCCC Conference on Climate Change (COP25) came to its conclusion on Sunday, December, 2019 in Madrid, with national governments making progress in a number of critical agreements to promote climate ambition in 2020, a landmark year in which nations must submit or update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

COP25 Madrid
Delegates at a plenary session at COP25 in Madrid

When the time for the stocktake arrived, the COP parties managed to reach agreement on several topics, such as:

  • including ocean and land ecosystems in the COP25 decision;
  • confirming the importance of science for decision making; establishing an implementation plan for the theme of gender and climate change;
  • renewing the international mechanism protecting against the impacts of climate change (known as “loss and damage”);
  • calling for greater ambition through the submission of updated NDCs in 2020; and
  • extending the Global Climate Action programme – focused on promoting and implementing climate action by non-state actors including local governments and businesses – by five years.

With respect to Article 6, which seeks to regulate carbon markets to incentivise and deliver private-sector action, parties were unable to reach a consensus, although some important advances were made on technical manuals, enabling critical next steps to be taken in Glasgow in 2020.

The stocktake is said to be positive in terms of the themes agreed by parties but, despite exhausting all possible efforts in a marathon final two days of negotiations, it proved impossible to finalise work on Article 6.

“Today, we as countries have remained in debt to the planet,” lamented the COP25 President, Carolina Schmidt, who also noted “the world is watching us and is waiting for concrete solutions from us. For this reason, today we are not satisfied. The agreements reached by parties are insufficient to tackle the crisis of climate change with urgency. There is still no consensus to raise ambition to the levels needed.”

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Nevertheless, the Conference did not achieve an agreement regarding Article 6 and the carbon market, one of the fundamental aspects for the final operationalisation of the Paris Agreement.

“Despite all efforts, it was impossible to reach agreements. Today, all countries have a debt to the planet,” said Schmidt, who in her closing address also remarked: “The world is watching us and expects concrete solutions from us. For this reason, we are not satisfied. The agreements reached by the Parties are not enough to face with a sense of urgency the climate change crisis. We still do not have the consensus to increase ambition to the levels that are needed.”

Governments agreed unanimously on the state of urgency and the need to increase ambition to respond to climate change in the next half of the century, inviting countries to update their NDCs and to commit to carbon neutrality by. 2050.

Stating their commitment under the “Climate Ambition Alliance” (Annex 2), 114 countries expressed their determination to work on updating their NDCs for 2020, raising ambition and 121 countries to work on long-term strategies considering carbon neutrality by 2050 as a goal to achieve in mitigation.

During COP25, Parties have reach agreement on the chapter Loss and Damage of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) that gives support to the most vulnerable people suffering the impacts of climate change. As part of this decision it was to include the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, as a network to catalyse technical support to face, work and develop capacities in the most vulnerable countries.

In response to the call of science on the need to be carbon neutral by 2050, the “Climate Ambition Alliance” also includes 121 countries, 15 subnational governments, 398 cities, 786 businesses and 16 investors with assets worth $4 trillion. In addition, all of them committed to being carbon neutral by 2050.

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In the 25th version of the Conference of the Parties, the extension of the Global Climate Action was extended until 2025 to accelerate the climate action of cities, regions, companies and civil society, supporting countries in the implementation of their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The agreement reached on gender issues was highly commended by the Parties. The Gender Action Plan (Annex 1) will strengthen the role and the empowerment of women in their respective local communities, providing them with tools to face climate change more effectively.

On the margins of the negotiations, the Agriculture and Forestry Day saw the launching of the Latin American and Caribbean Platform of Climate Action on Agriculture (PLACA), with Ministers from nine countries in the region joining the platform, which will hold its first meeting in March 2020.

In addition, on Energy Day, the Ministers of Chile and Colombia launched the regional goal for Latin America and the Caribbean on Renewable Energies, which seeks to increase the share of renewable energy up to a regional average of 70% by the year 2030.

“We know that climate change is unjust. That is why the Presidency of COP25 focused on changing course in several respects,” said COP25 President Carolina Schmidt.

Another change of course is the transition from negotiation into action, ensuring that climate action cuts across all productive sectors in order to make them part of the solution. For the first time in COP history high-level meetings were held with the ministers who lead the highest Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitting and capturing sectors: the Ministers of Agriculture and Energy. In addition, the Chilean Pavilion was the venue for the celebration of Transport Day.

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Also worth highlighting is the change of course shown by the presence of global finance in climate action, with ministers from this sector meeting for the first time as part of a COP. The Coalition of Finance Ministers made up of 51 countries, which in turn represent 30% of the world’s GDP, launched an action plan to respond to the climate crisis.

As part of this change of course, the COP25 Presidency also sought to turn science into a key ally, not just regarding the diagnosis of the problem but also as a guide to its solution. Innovation, technology transfers, capacity-building and nature-based solutions are essential to a more ambitious, more rapid and more effective climate action.

Raising ambition through bolder climate action plans is crucial for the world to continue on the path of greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 45 per cent in 2030 with respect to 2020 levels and to reach zero net CO2 emissions by 2050,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa.

In the Blue COP, new topics were also included in climate action. The oceans, which cover two thirds of the planet and are essential for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, were made the centre of attention. Thirty-nine countries that subscribe the “Because the Ocean” initiative, which since 2016 has encouraged countries to include an ocean component in their NDCs, joined the Climate Ambition Alliance (see more details below in Annex 1). During 2020, Chile will work alongside the UK to increase the number of countries that will include oceans in their NDCs.

In COP25, Chile launched its platform for ocean solutions based on science, which will bring together initiatives, tools, and methodologies that can be used by governments to develop climate policies for the oceans. This is a contribution to the main objective of improving ambition and protecting the ocean from the effects of climate change.

To enhance adaptation, as part of this change of course a Ministerial Dialogue on Ambition in Adaptation was held, with a strong attendance at the Ministerial level. During 2020, the COP25 Presidency will move on from the COP of action to that of implementation in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

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