The UN climate talks (COP25) concluded on Sunday, December 15, 2019 in Madrid, Spain with the popular impression that governments showed no signs of addressing the climate emergency.
Bogged down by what looked like bad faith negotiations that put politics and fossil-fuel interests above people and the planet, many countries – fronted by the United States, Australia and Brazil – seemed to once again expose an apathy to the suffering of millions and a rejection of the science. The gap between what people are demanding for a climate-safe future and what leaders are willing to do appears to be widening as emissions rise, fossil fuel production expands, and impacts escalate.
Campaigners allege that major emitters failed to show clear signals about increasing ambition by 2020 and rich countries reneged on the promise to provide finance for loss and damage. “With no agreement on carbon market rules, we reiterate that any rules decided next year must secure environmental integrity and protect human rights. Anything less than this is unacceptable,” they stress.
“Earlier in the week, hundreds of climate activists engaged in a peaceful but loud protest close to the plenary halls as ministers dragged their feet on negotiations inside. It is deeply concerning that observer groups faced severe retaliation for demanding climate justice, echoing the voices from the streets, even as lobbyists and polluters roam the UN halls freely.
“We now enter a ‘decade of ambition’ that must see transformative policies to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Governments cannot ignore the groundswell of public opinion demanding an urgent response to the climate crisis. This past year we have seen the will of the people, especially the youth, in different parts of the world. In 2020, well ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, we need to see clear plans from all national capitals that secure the future people deserve,” they voiced out.
Jake Schmidt, Managing Director of the International Programme the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “World leaders dithered instead of taking stronger, critical action soon to reduce the global climate threat. They ignored dire scientific reports, worsening evidence of climate destruction and demands from millions of young people to protect their future. In Madrid, the key polluting countries responsible for 80 percent of the world’s climate-wrecking emissions, stood mute, while smaller countries announced they’ll work to drive down harmful emissions in the coming year. The mute majority must step up, and ramp up, their commitments to tackle the growing climate crisis well ahead of the COP26 gathering. We will not let them abandon us to a world of endlessly rising seas, vanishing species, civil strife and rampant wildfires, storms and floods.”
Julie-Anne Richards, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Australia, said: “This is a time of climate emergency back home – with bushfires raging for three months, six people have died, 720 homes have been destroyed, beautiful national parks and their wildlife burnt. Yet still the Australian Government has sought to weaken its climate ambition and drag the ambition of the whole Paris Agreement down to its level. This is not acceptable to the Australian people, thousands of whom took to the streets this week demanding that the government take climate change seriously. The Government have not heard the last from us, we will persist in demanding climate justice.”
Gavan McFadzean, Climate and Energy Program Manager of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said: “With devastating drought and wildfires raging across Australia, never has there been a wider chasm between what climate damage is inflicting on our planet and the embarrassing lack of urgency shown by the Australian government at these international climate talks. Under Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, Australia was either missing in action or worse, campaigning for special treatment in order to reduce its ambition even further, by being the only country to access Kyoto carryover credits to meet its meagre 2030 Paris target. The backdrop to Minister Taylor’s Madrid visit was the scathing independent assessment of Australia’s performance, scoring zero out of one hundred on climate policy effectiveness and slipping even further down the overall country rankings to 56 out of 61.”
Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said: “Governments need to completely rethink how they do this, because the outcome of COP25 is totally unacceptable. This COP exposed the role of polluters in politics and the youth’s deep distrust of government, while climate blockers like Brazil and Saudi Arabia, enabled by an irresponsibly weak Chilean leadership, peddled carbon deals and steamrolled scientists and civil society. We need systemic change that people can trust, and there have been some early signals from the EU and the most vulnerable countries this week that this is possible. Decision-makers now need to go home, regroup and think about how to move forward as we head into a critical 2020.”
Erika Lennon, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), said: “Inside the halls at COP25 countries seem to have forgotten about the urgency of the climate crisis as they failed to take the necessary steps to raise ambition for greater climate action. The climate crisis is a human rights crisis. Failure to act urgently and place human rights at the core of climate action will be measured in human livelihoods, human rights violations, and human lives. On Article 6, despite the pressure to deliver the only remaining part of the Paris Rulebook at COP25, several Parties refused to trade human rights and environmental integrity for carbon markets in Madrid, resulting in the decision being punted to COP26. This delay was the only responsible way forward today. Now, Parties must ensure that when rules are adopted for the Article 6 activities they safeguard human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights, guarantee public participation, and ensure access to justice so as to uphold the integrity of the Paris Agreement at COP26.”
Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “The world is screaming out for climate action but this summit has responded with a whisper. Instead of committing to more ambitious cuts in emissions, countries have been arguing over technicalities. Responding to the climate emergency, poorer nations spoke with one voice to demand funds for the loss and damage. Wealthy nations have used every trick in the book to stall progress and avoid paying their fair share. Now more than ever, it is vital that people across the world keep up the pressure on governments to deliver more ambition.”
Mattias Söderberg, Climate advisor at DanChurchAid and Head of Delegation for the ACT Alliance, said: “2019 has been full of calls for climate action. From scientists, from the youth marching on the streets, and from people and communities which have been affected by climate related disasters. It is sad, tragic and extremely disappointing to see how governments, from different parts of the world, have failed to listen. There is a climate emergency and there is no time for further delay of action. It is therefore sad to see how the climate summit in Madrid failed to deliver the success we were hoping for.”
Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network Europe, said: “During COP25, the EU has repeatedly said it wants to lead by example. To prove its sincerity and leadership to implement the Paris Agreement, the EU needs to substantially increase its 2030 climate pledge in the first months of 2020. The window of opportunity to achieve the 1.5°C objective of the Paris Agreement is closing rapidly.”
Sriram Madhusoodanan, Deputy Campaigns Director with Corporate Accountability, said: “By every measure, COP25 failed to rise to the challenge of our times and to deliver for people. It’s clear, now more than ever, who’s at fault. Global North governments, at the behest of polluting industries, are attempting to completely eviscerate the Paris Agreement and the broader UNFCCC. In place of real solutions, this axis of polluters is forcing through dangerous distractions and reneging on all financial commitments and responsibilities. There is no more time for inaction.
“People have the solutions. The time is now for the UNFCCC and governments around the world to start listening, and for governments on the frontlines of the climate crisis to stand strong. We will not stand idly by as they sell our planet off to the highest bidder and doom millions. We will not be silenced when our words offend those they continue to protect. We will rise and realise the solutions that our world urgently needs.”
Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International, said: “COP 25’s failure to deliver a just and ambitious outcome is a reminder of the corrosive influence of Big Oil, Gas, and Coal. But the past two weeks also showcased the indomitable spirit of those fighting for climate justice for decades and the growing resolve of a new generation that will not accept half measures. We are living a climate emergency, and anything short of phasing out fossil fuel production with a just and equitable transition is scandalous. Rich and industrialised governments have once again failed to stand up to polluters, wreaking havoc on billions of lives and livelihoods. As we head into a critical year, we must look to the strength and leadership of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis and fossil fuel extraction. People-powered movements outside these halls have unstoppable momentum, and 1.5ºC is non-negotiable.”
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy practice and COP20 President, said: “Despite the efforts of the Chilean Presidency, the lack of commitment to scale up climate action by big emitting countries was too much to overcome. Their position is in stark contrast to science, rising demands from the streets and the harsh impacts already felt in vulnerable countries. We know what must be done, and we have run out of time for backtracking or debate. 2020 must be different and we will fight even harder for people and nature. Governments will return home to face increasing frustrations from youth movements, citizens and vulnerable communities suffering from the impacts of the climate crisis and will have to answer to them. Countries still have the chance to show they are committed to tackling the climate crisis by submitting enhanced climate pledges aligned with science as soon as possible in 2020.”
Inge Vianen, Global Leader of CARE International’s Climate Change and Resilience Platform, said: “The outcomes of COP25 are completely disconnected from the demands of people across the world to address the climate emergency. Governments from big polluting countries, like the USA, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Australia, continue down a path of dangerous inaction and are undermining international efforts to prevent the increasingly eminent climate breakdown. Nations like the EU, China, and India must now seize the opportunity to take leadership to ensure all countries cooperate and deliver improved national climate plans. Lack thereof would risk global surrender to the climate crisis and failure to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.”
Gilles Dufrasne, Policy Officer with Carbon Market Watch, said: “After two weeks of negotiations, discussions on carbon markets took such a bad turn that seeing no agreement was actually a relief. We came here asking for urgent action and several countries only offered accounting tricks and cover for climate inaction. These loopholes are nothing but a way of cheating the planet and betraying the people.”
Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of Climate Observatory, in Brazil, said: “Once again, the COP has put process before people and the planet. With the effects of the climate crisis worsening all over the world, some governments in Madrid went as far as withdrawing the expression ‘climate emergency’ from the COP decision. In a depressing turnaround from the cooperative spirit that gave us the Paris Agreement, in Madrid the usual suspects were joined by new blockers, like Brazil. The ecocidal politics of the Bolsonaro administration has tainted the Brazilian delegation at COP25 and made a former environment champion into a Trump-like pariah whose engagement in the fight against climate catastrophe risks becoming nothing more than a signature in a global deal.”
Dr. Katherine Kramer, Global Climate Lead of Christian Aid, said: “The UK now has a gargantuan task of overseeing a successful climate summit in Glasgow next year. That meeting is supposed to be the moment the world responds to the climate crisis by strengthening the pledges made in the Paris Agreement. To avoid failure, the UK will need to put its own house in order, in creating and implementing policies to rapidly reduce its own emissions. It will also need to deploy its diplomatic skills to create an outcome that responds to the demands of both science and people.”
Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada, said: “You know something is broken when those demanding climate justice are pushed outside of the climate conference and those delaying climate action are allowed to stay inside. These negotiations were supposed to deliver a clear, resounding call for more ambitious emissions targets and financing for climate vulnerable countries already experiencing the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. Negotiators were supposed to deliver strong rules for carbon markets that would uphold the environmental integrity of the Paris Agreement and safeguard human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Instead, big polluters and the countries most historically responsible for the climate crisis have been able to ruthlessly advance the fossil fuel industry’s profit agenda over our collective futures – while those calling for justice have been sidelined and physically removed. On every issue of significance, COP25 has delivered a mediocre or non -outcome that betrays the millions of people around the world calling for real climate action.”
Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: “I’ve been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991. But never have I seen the almost total disconnect we’ve seen here at COP25 in Madrid between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action. Led by the youth, growing numbers of people around the world are demanding that their leaders take bold, ambitious actions to tackle the climate crisis. Nearly 70 countries – most of them climate vulnerable, developing nations – have risen to the challenge by committing to enhance the ambition of their Paris pledges. But most of the world’s biggest emitting countries are missing in action and resisting calls to raise their ambition.
“The outcome here in Madrid reflects that resistance, with the absence of any clarion call to action – both on reigning in emissions and on climate finance – in the final decisions. If this stance doesn’t change between now and next year’s climate summit in Glasgow, it will make the task of meeting the well below 2 degrees Celsius temperature limitation goal that leaders agreed to in Paris – much less the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal – almost impossible.”
Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director and Lead Economist in the Climate and Energy Programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: “At a time when the science and the urgent need to address the human toll of climate impacts couldn’t be clearer, the deeply flawed outcome here in Madrid is plainly unjust and immoral. Instead of stepping up to respond to the demands from youth, indigenous people and climate vulnerable communities around the world, major emitters and rich countries have failed them. And despite hearing powerful calls to action from nations fighting for their very existence, the richest countries most responsible for climate change have done little to provide funding to help them in their time of need. We already have at our fingertips many of the technologies needed to sharply reduce global warming emissions and know what it takes to make a rapid and just transition to a low-carbon economy.
“Whether in the United States or in the global south, communities on the frontlines of climate change are already struggling with intensifying hurricanes and wildfires, extreme heat, rising seas and drought, and they urgently need investments in climate resilience. Yet, those in power remain beholden to the very fossil fuel corporations driving this global emergency, much to the detriment of the people they are bound to serve. The people of the world who care about the future of our planet will not give up the fight for bold, transformative climate action. The pressure is on to exert power from the streets to the highest levels of government to secure ambition well ahead of COP26 in Glasgow and beyond.”
Jean Su, Energy Director with the Centre for Biological Diversity, said: “The global climate talks are a farce if countries continue down this destructive path of inaction. These talks are meant to halt climate devastation on people and the planet, yet governments have ostracized the very voices of people suffering climate impacts. These outcomes are just another sign that fossil fuel profits continue to drive government decisions, even if that takes us to planetary collapse. We urge world leaders to listen to the millions of people in the streets and act with humanity and courage to turn this climate emergency around.”
Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate for ActionAid International, said: “These talks are ending with a strong sense of déjà vu. The US has once again gotten its way through bullying and tricks. They came here in bad faith, acting only to protect their interests and those of the polluting industries that caused the climate emergency.
“As fires rage and cyclones intensify, rich countries have folded their arms, refusing to offer the new systems and money so urgently needed to help countries forced to pick up the pieces after disasters.
“Instead, this decision only offers statements of intent, working groups and networks, which should have been in place years ago. This result fails to offer a helping hand to climate survivors in the Global South who did the least to cause the crisis.”
Brice Böhmer, Global Lead on Climate Governance Integrity, Transparency International, said: “The fossil fuel industry exerts disproportionate, moneyed influence over climate policy making: this is what happened in Madrid. Climate policy must serve the interests of all people and the planet, not just a few private concerns. We urgently need to shift perspectives and stop corruption and undue influence if we want to win the fight against climate change.”
Ahti Tolvanen, Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, said: “What separates humans from other animals and other life forms is faith. Humans can sometimes lose faith both in each other and in nature and beyond that in life itself. I may not have been the only one who found one’s faith in life and a future for generations to come shaken during COP25. The faithful witness of CAN colleagues, (even people now outside without access to the meeting), and the perseverance of those coming together after days of sleepless vigil to support an outcome upon which we can yet build a better world was moving. Faith yet lives and a feeling of gratitude to those many who kept it alive over dark and sleepless nights.”
Miriam Talwisa, National Coordinator CAN-Uganda, said: “While the world and especially the most vulnerable-involuntarily located on the frontlines of the climate crisis and now emergency- looked forward to a COP outcome with substantive global actions to address increasingly devastating climate effects-for which they have less contribution; the light now gradually deems as the highest possible ambition so far reached is in continuous disregard of historical responsibilities.”
Nathaniel Keohane, Senior Vice President for Climate, Environmental Defence Fund, said: “The yawning gap between what citizens are demanding on climate action, and what UN negotiations are delivering, is wider than ever. Carbon markets can help fill that gap by promoting international cooperation that allows countries to cut climate pollution faster and deeper than they can on their own. But after negotiators at Madrid failed to agree on guidance for markets, it’s time to move on. Countries that are serious about using carbon markets to increase ambition should move forward to set their own strong rules for high-integrity international emissions trading. There’s no need to wait – and no time to waste.”
Christoph Bals, Policy Director, Germanwatch, said: “COP25 shows the strength and weakness of the Paris Agreement: All countries see that the withdrawal from coal, oil and gas is now entering the serious phase. This is why some states such as the USA, Brazil and Australia, which are closely linked to the fossil lobby, are organising a final defensive battle. But the vast majority of states have made it clear at COP25 that they are firmly committed to the Paris Agreement and will improve their national climate plans (NDCs) next year. The European Green Deal is a good basis for the EU to take the lead here and organise international partnerships – for example with China, India and South Africa. In the coming year, the German government must set the decisive course for the socially equitable ecological transformation of industry, agriculture and the energy sector.”
Floris Faber, EU representative of ACT Alliance EU, said: “It’s time to step-up and help fill the finance gap! 2020 must be a year of demonstrable effort to reduce emissions and demonstrable provisions of new and additional finance to developing countries, to address loss and damage.”
Leia Achampong, Policy Advisor at ACT Alliance EU said: “The voices of vulnerable and marginalised communities in developing countries, including women, young people, indigenous peoples and transgender communities must be heard. Their calls can no longer go unanswered and their human rights must be upheld.”
Kathy Egland, Environmental and Climate Justice Chair, NAACP National Board of Directors, said: “We knew the intent of the United States coming into these negotiations by the official filing of intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. However, we could not have imagined the depth and breadth that the U.S. and a few other countries were willing to undertake to ensure that COP25 was relegated to a quagmire of stagnation, regressiveness and non-productivity. Vulnerable countries are confronted with preservation of their existence. Climate forced migration is escalating. Over a million beneficial species are facing extinction. Vulnerable communities, communities of colour, Indigenous populations and the economically disadvantaged have contributed least to climate change, but disproportionately impacted most. The biggest emitters are the same rich, developed countries who blocked any ambitious actions on climate and rejected any substance on loss and damage/finance. The miserable failure of the Parties at COP 25 to act with a sense of urgency and responsibility is reprehensible.”
Sanjay Vashist, Director at Climate Action Network South Asia said: “The primary goal of the latest round of climate negotiations in Madrid was to complete the unfinished tasks of the Paris Agreement rulebook. The rulebook would contain the processes, guidelines and institutions for the implementation of the Paris agreement however developed countries prioritised their national interests over global common good and failed the world in finding a robust way forward that shows the urgency and commitment required to tackle the climate crisis.
“USA that has pulled out of the Paris Agreement continued its toxic role in the background to scuttle any ambition to reduce emissions while Brazil tried to legitimise it’s deforestation through new market mechanism. The time lost in Madrid will have far reaching impacts and will be detrimental to well-being of the planet.”
Mario Caffera-Director Sociedad Amigos del Viento (Uruguay, CAN LatinAmerica), said: “In an environment of weak leadership through the negotiations and a steady attempt to confine ENGOs testimony, a Big Fossil Deal amongst big polluters lead to that Injustice-as-Usual. Now Glasgow is one year ahead. We must go faster than ever. After 2020 there will be less chances to repair the Climatic Mess.”