What the World Can Expect from COP25

The fundamental issue is whether we are ready to address the effects of climate change without taking control of our emissions

December 2nd saw the start of the 25th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, also known as COP25 Chile Madrid 2019 –an unusual name for a summit presided over by Chile and developed with the support of the Spanish Government, since Santiago was unable to host the event. Carolina Schmidt, Minister of the Environment of Chile, is the designated president of the Conference, which was launched with the mandate #TiempoDeActuar (time to act).

The Spanish Government itself decided to host the summit considering it a priority and of utmost importance, given the relevance of the climate action topic for the European Union, the United Nations and the world, particularly in face of the pressing need to take action to deal with the disproportionate rise in the planet’s temperature.

The first “COP” took place in Berlin, on March 28, 1995. Even though these conferences are held annually, the most notable have been COP21 Paris and COP3 Kyoto, where targets were set for the increase in the planet’s mean temperature, with their respective agreements and protocols. In this forum, actions related to global climate strategy are decided upon and (in some way) implemented, since the parties to the Agreement “make the necessary decisions to promote the effective implementation of the Agreement, including institutional and administrative arrangements,” according to its statutes. 

This is not the first time that the COP has been moved to another venue. COP17 Fiji had to be relocated to Bonn owing to logistical issues, and the upcoming COP26 in 2020 was initially going to be held in Brazil, but was transferred to Glasgow after the newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, withdrew the offer of this South American nation to host the conference. The most interesting point about this situation is not so much that the location of these summits can be reconsidered, but rather the reasons for their transfer.

Every country in the world is suffering or will suffer from, to a greater or lesser extent, the effects of the planet’s rising temperature, and the actions needed to mitigate such effects demand collective, globally coordinated action. Unfortunately, the agenda of some of these countries not only fails to prioritize these issues, but also discredits them, even though they are already feeling the environmental and social effects resulting from their own past decisions.

Brazil has recently experienced one of the greatest environmental disasters in its history, with the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, the planet’s lungs and one the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Moreover, Fiji is home to almost one million people in the center of the South Pacific on 300 volcanic islands, which are now highly susceptible to cyclones and flooding.

We can expect three crucial questions to be asked in this latest climate meeting:  

  1. What agreements can be made? Even though the agreements that could be made are not yet clear, the summit will enable the discussion of strategic topics, in particular the following four points:

    a) The use of taxes and other market instruments to internalize negative externalities and the consolidation of international environmental governance.
    b) Setting  efficiency standards and generating technology that will make it possible to implement such market-based instruments.
    c) The establishment of costs for polluting so as to encourage innovation and the reduction of government subsidies that are detrimental to the natural capital.
    d) The creation of new green jobs and the promotion of a transition that will guarantee the wellbeing of affected workers.
  2. Which country is obstructing the attainment of broader agreements? The United States government is the most notable absentee from the agreements, even though that country’s Department of State affirms that they are participating with a delegation comprised of Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and a group of International Scientists, among other officials. The United States’ reluctance to contemplate the agreements reached in previous summits continues to be an issue that prevents the advancement of global agreements.
  3. What is Mexico’s position? The Mexican government’s official position confirms its commitment to comply with the Paris Agreement and intention to participate in the negotiations to be held during the summit. Even though this vindicates the supportive discourse of the Mexican government regarding the aforementioned summit, it is not fully aligned with the actions taken at the federal level since the start of the new administration, particularly as it seems unlikely that such agreements will be fulfilled by 2030 with the way things are right now.

The fundamental issue is whether we are ready to address the effects of climate change without taking control of our emissions. So far, we have seen some evidence of what could happen if the temperature continues to rise, but the catastrophic effects this could represent are still unclear. It is time to act and begin to take climate action as seriously as it deserves.

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