Political dynamics shape last days of COP25 negotiations

11 December 2019

11 December 2019, Madrid, Spain: As ministers arrive at the COP25 UN climate negotiations, Climate Action Network (CAN) held a press briefing to provide a political context on the state of play on the negotiations and updates on civil society’s demands from party negotiators.

Reactions from CAN speakers:

Alden Meyer, Director, Strategy and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists: 

“We heard a call from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: “the COP25 must convey to the world a firm determination to change course and finally demonstrate that we are serious in the commitment to stop the war against nature,” he said. “There’s no time and no reason to delay – we have the tools, we have the science, we have the resources, let us show that we also have the political will that people demand from us.” We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves. 

I’ve been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991, let’s be honest – neither the RIO Framework or Kyoto Protocol delivered the level of ambition that we need and we are now seeing the consequences of that failure in the extreme weather events that are mounting year by year. But in my almost 30 years in this process, never have I seen the almost total disconnect that we are seeing here in Madrid between the science and what the people of the world are demanding on the one hand, and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action on the other. This is true both when it comes to raising the ambition of countries’ emission reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement and also when it comes to mobilizing much greater support for the vulnerable countries and communities who are facing ever more devastating impacts of climate change.

Many of the most vulnerable countries have joined the growing number of state and local governments, business leaders, investors, and others around the world in announcing ambitious climate action commitments but the world’s biggest emitting countries which account for nearly 80% of the global carbon emissions are not accepting their responsibility to increase the ambition of their existing commitments under Paris. If world leaders continue to evade their responsibility to increase ambition between now and COP26 in Glasgow next year, they will make the tasks of well below 2 degrees Celsius temperature limitation goal, much less that 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, almost impossible. Given their greater capacity and historical responsibility, it’s the developed countries that must take leadership in dramatically raising their ambition. But with President Trump’s irresponsible decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, my country will be on the sidelines until at least January 2021.

All eyes are now upon the European Union. At the EU Council meeting tomorrow and Friday, we expect the EU’s national leaders to signal their intention to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. But we are concerned by indications by the EU might postpone this decision to raise the ambition of its 2030 target until next October. It’s essential for the EU to make the announcement no later than the end of the first quarter of 2020 so that it can engage constructively with China, India and other major emitting countries in discussions on substantially their ambition as well in advance of COP26.

On loss and damage, it’s abundantly clear that their support for countries on the frontlines of the climate emergency is grossly inadequate and we need the path forward out of this COP that gives vulnerable countries the assurance that they will see finance and capacity-building and support to address the loss and damage they are already experiencing. The US is the main blocker of this issue but other developed countries are also responsible for the log jam in negotiations over loss and damage. The EU, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and other developed countries must stop hiding behind the US and engage constructively on this issue with developing countries over the next few days.

If we get a very weak outcome on these issues by the end of the week, with no pathway forward with either raising  mitigation ambition or financial support for vulnerable countries action to respond to loss and damage, it will send a terrible signal to the world. If this happens, it will not be the UN process that will have failed, rather it will be the yawning deficit of political will amongst all too many national leaders that’s the root of all the problem. In the remaining few days of the climate summit, ministers  must demonstrate they’ve heard the voice of scientists, the youth and others who are demanding urgent action to respond to the climate emergency. The eyes of the world are upon them.”


Mohamed Adow, Director, Power Shift Africa: 

“The lack of action and willingness in the pre-2020 period is jeopardizing our chance to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees. The 1.5 degree-threshold in the Paris Agreement is at risk of becoming meaningless. That is the case because rich developed countries who have emitted the bulk of the emissions that have caused climate change and who are required to take leadership in the pre-2020 period have not honored their commitments. We have an ambition gap in mitigation, we have a finance gap, and now we have an adaptation and loss and damage gap.

Because of the lack of ambition in the pre-2020 period, we now face the risk of increasing and devastating loss and damage. If we want to change the trajectory that the world is on, we need the developed countries coming forward and bridging their pre-2020 ambition. There’s one clear way of doing that which the developing countries have been calling for: the mandate for work program for pre-2020 implementation so that the pre-2020 commitment don’t end in 2020 but actually a work program that is going to extend the commitment to at least 2022. What we need to do is to rebuild the trust in this process so that the rich developed countries who have not honored their pre-2020 commitment can actually be seen to be bridging the gap not just on mitigation but also on financing, on adaptation and on loss and damage.

We need to see from them new and improved climate plans next year but the way to actually achieve that is to first honor the pre-2020 commitment. We know that the one thing that helps the Paris Agreement to be effective is the regular review of the ratchet mechanism which is contained in the Paris Agreement, and that is what gave the world hope. Even though the ambition contained in the Paris Agreement was low, that we are falling short of what the science say is required, we will come back to the table every five years and the first time we are going to do that is next year. Our message is to all countries is that we need to see new and improved climate plans next year because that is what’s actually going to take to put the world on a safe 1.5 degree trajectory.

What we are seeing in these halls is that rich countries particularly are dragging their feet and they are all putting us in danger. If the rich countries don’t come forward on pre-2020, we have these terrible log jam in the process where the rest of the world, particularly the emerging economies, also don’t honor the commitment to revise and improve their NDC targets next year. And if that happens, then the opportunity to actually meaningfully realize the global goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5 is going to be rendered meaningless and that is something that we cannot afford.

The finance commitments that the rich world had made, particularly on the $100 billion by 2020, has not been honored. This is now undermining the trust in the process in a way that we cannot see how these countries are going to meaningfully respond to what science is saying is required but, more importantly, what the public in the streets and the young children are saying is required in this process. The way to save this process and actually tackle climate change is for the developed world to honor their pre-2020 commitment and the world to collectively agree to put forward new, revised and improved NDCs next year.”


Yamide Dagnet, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute, International Climate Action Initiative: 

“Article 6 remains on the real focus on the negotiations as part of the COP25 package and a lot of work is going to be handed to ministers this week. The ministers from South Africa and New Zealand will lead this particular work. We have to hope that parties agree on a robust and fair set of Article 6 rules in light of the number of countries that signal their use of carbon markets in their NDCs. These represent 51% of NDCs and 35% of GHG emissions which is why even if Article 6 is just one tool to raise ambitions, we need to pay attention because done wrong, it could also undercut ambition, but done right it can also accelerate actions and do that more efficiently.

While the text has been further streamlined, the major options dividing parties remain. There’s four sticky political issues that we have identified last week that remains definitely contentious: double counting, the use of corresponding adjustments or share of proceeds which is a kind of levy to be imposed to support and finance the adaptation fund, how to ensure that the credit generated will actually lead to additional ambition on top of what countries will do domestically, and what will happen as we transition from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement with the carryover with the credit generated under the Kyoto Protocol.

As a result, there are various tradeoffs. There are some movements to try to minimize double counting and whether to use corresponding adjustments. The question is for those countries starting to show movement like Brazil whether there will be concessions on what they really want on the transition from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately in the past couple of days we have seen some countries, not just Brazil, that have looked at how we carry over credits from the second period of the Kyoto Protocol. We also heard Australia highlighting how they intend to use the credits to meet 60% of their targets. There’s a lot of risk of loopholes so we need to see how much concessions will be happening there.

Another type of tradeoff is between Article 6 itself and its issues. We’ve heard about the levy to be imposed on Article 6. We have seen movement from developing countries to highlight the issue to make sure that the levies already created under the Paris Agreement under Article 6.4 is going to be sufficient to ensure stable and permanent flow of adaptation fund. This fund is so important to support projects at community level to support vulnerable countries. Not doing that for 6.2 – the bilateral trading between countries – can put into disadvantage the levy created under 6.4. So we ask developed countries to come up with ways on how to ensure that we don’t just ask for pledges of adaptation fund and begging all the time, but how to have a systematic process to ensure adequate flow of finance for adaptation. We still need to see that and it is part of the adaptation and finance package of this COP, together with the financing of loss and damage.

We need to remember that Article 6 is only one means to accelerate action. To do this more effectively and at a lower cost, it is not the only tool to raise ambition, if done right, it can boost the transformation that we need, but if done wrong it can undermine ambition, it can put at risk human rights. At this time, the text still does not include human rights paragraph that civil society is aspiring to. We need to make sure that ministers need to know that we will not just judge them on delivering whatever deal on Article 6, there’s a lot of pressure to come out of it with something and we will judge them on the quality of the deal.

As Ilda, the young activist that we heard this morning, said, “if you do not know how to fix things, stop breaking them.” So we need to make sure that we don’t end up with a broken Article 6.”


#### ENDS ####



Dharini Parthasarathy, Senior Communications Officer, CAN




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