By: George Kurzom
A demonstration of environmental activists in the vicinity of the climate conference halls in Madrid
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Madrid (COP25), is considered the longest amongst similar conferences held in the previous years. Nonetheless, the conference concluded its sessions in mid last December without taking any binding decisions capable of inducing a fundamental change in the framework formulated to implement the Paris Agreement (2015); by which nearly 200 countries pledged to cut greenhouse gases within their territories. The main decision that was taken in COP 25 is for 114 countries (out of 200) to shape long-term goals aiming to lower greenhouse gases in their areas of sovereignty, such that these reductions be greater than those set since the Paris Agreement. Yet, the conference did not set specific goals for these countries, nor did it set methods to encourage or exert economic pressure to implement the policy of emissions reduction.
According to the decision, the mentioned countries are required to present to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the few following months the preliminary new goals that each country will set for itself. This should be done before the next climate conference (COP 26).
The topic that occupied those who attended the conference was the attempt to regulate the pricing of carbon emissions and its trade market; aiming to motivate countries. At the end of the day, the topic’s resolution was scheduled for the next conference. Many countries accused Australia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia of obstructing attempts to regulate the carbon market, as those three countries objected (during the conference) the move, which made it difficult to reach an agreement regarding this topic.
Another central issue discussed in the conference was the mechanism of flow of funds from rich countries (most of which are responsible of the climate crisis) to developing countries, with the goal of assisting the latter to cope with the consequences of the crisis. Even though the conference did not set a new method that solves this issue, it did however decide to expand the activities of the Green Climate Fund. The resolution stipulated that the Fund shall receive additional budgets to mitigate the damage and losses resulting in developing countries from the climate crisis, without clearly specifying the entities who will sustain the fund. A team of experts will be formed to formulate the principles for operating the mechanism. In conclusion, COP25 failed, also here, to adopt a decisive resolution to support developing countries in mitigating and facing the climate crisis.
Nonetheless, the humble successes recorded in Madrid were not the result of the decisions taken by 200 country-signatories on the Climate Convention, but rather a result of regional and local initiatives. The most notable of these contributions is the European Union’s declaration about setting aspiring goals to lower greenhouse gases, including reaching “carbon neutrality” by mid century, by reducing carbon emissions to zero, or by developing ways to absorb them. As a result, the number of major cities around the world that committed to a similar goal increased from 100 to 400.
Monopolies Fight any Real Change
COP conference is held annually, and during all conferences, especially as of Paris, and till Madrid, there were many attempts to come up with an execution plan for the agreement, yet all these attempts failed. During the Madrid conference, there was hope for a breakthrough due to the momentum of global protests, which for the first time, included global mobilization for the struggle to confront the climate crisis, with encouragement from environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg. This came in conjunction with the accumulation of additional scientific knowledge regarding climate change, and a chain of extreme weather events (in Australia, United States of America, and South America in general, Brazil in particular, and others) which demonstrated the humanitarian and economic impacts of the crisis. Contrarily, imperialistic political and economic interests have proven, once more, to be not only very powerful, but monstrous; especially when it comes to countries such as Brazil, USA, and Australia, who insist on continuing to exploit and drain natural resources in a manner inconsistent with the climate emergency.
Bottom line: the conference’s participants failed to make a decisive decision regarding the financial mechanism governing the carbon trade, or regarding the financial aid to developing countries to deal with the crisis. Furthermore, the resolution inviting countries to put forward more ambitious commitments to reduce its emissions lacks means for international pressure; making it another mere rhetoric calling upon countries to mobilize towards facing the world threatening crisis.
These grim conclusions raise an issue: the point of holding climate conferences. Some experts and scientists who attended the conference, said clearly that repeating such conferences is meaningless, because the power of huge global monopoly companies prevents any real change.
Translated by: Carol Khoury