Sergi Arfelis Espinosa, researcher at the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change of ESCI-UPF, attended COP27. In this second article, he shares his thoughts about the results and decisions made in Sharm El Sheikh.
After two weeks of intense negotiations, and running almost 48 hours over schedule, COP25 finally delivered an agreement: “Chile-Madrid. Time for Action”. However, it falls far short of the action called for by the scientific community.
The delegates of the almost 200 countries participating in the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 held in Madrid began negotiations last Monday, December 2, which should have been concluded on Friday 13. Instead, the impossibility of pursuing an ambitious agreement and the frustration that prevailed among many official delegations, made it last two more days, ending this Sunday with the “Chile-Madrid Time to Act” agreement, under the watchful eye of authorities, scientists and civil society organisations attending COP25 closing plenary.
Among them was Dr Pere Fullana i Palmer, director of the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, who has participated as an observer in the climate negotiations. Fullana i Palmer spoke on behalf of the RINGO — Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organisations to express their opinion on the results of COP25: “We regret any dilution of science in the texts,” highlighted the director of the Chair.
The “Chile-Madrid Time to Act” agreement does not entail firm commitments to reduce emissions.
The “Chile-Madrid Time to Act” agreement establishes a commitment to increase climate ambition from 2020 and comply with the Paris Agreement (2015) preventing a 1.5-degree increase in the Earth’s average temperature in this century. However, it does not entail firm commitments to reduce emissions, far from the recommendations of science, nor does it address one of the pending issues of the Paris Agreement: Article 6 on creating a new global carbon market to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, postponed to 2020. Nevertheless, it does acknowledge that climate policies need to be updated based on advances in science and the role of the IPCC — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, thanking it for the two special reports on land use and the oceans published in 2019, recognizing their importance in the climate system.
What do scientists ask for?
“Thought 25 years of COPs, plentiful technical solutions for mitigation and adaptation, as well as finance and market mechanisms have been developed, linking research with innovation. It is time now to put research and the agreement into action,” said Fullana i Palmer in his speech as RINGO’s spokesperson. Furthermore, he added: “efforts, talks, and negotiations are no longest sufficient. We urge us all to return home to implement the details of the Paris Agreement now. Through capacity building, we must give people the tools and empowerment to address climate change in their communities.”
“Do not waste time. Do not waste our time,” claimed the director of the UNESCO Chair ESCI-UPF and accredited observer of COP25.
Appealing to the role of researchers in fighting climate change, Fullana i Palmer also highlighted that “the research community stands ready to serve as knowledge brokers to explain the regional relevance of the scientific evidence and COP decisions in our home communities and countries. We are also prepared to help the transformation of knowledge into day to day practice.” To this end, “RINGO encourages the private and public sectors to engage in climate action and move towards a more circular economy. Do not waste time. Do not waste our time,” he claimed.
Finally, on behalf of RINGO, the Chair’s director expressed its gratitude to the governments and people of Chile and Spain for putting together COP25 in such a short time. “This is a good example of how the north and south can come together and accomplish a great task: a metaphor for what we need to do now to advance the provisions of the Paris Agreement and COP25.”
COP25 key achievements
The Climate Change Conference has confirmed that the fight against climate change is a cross-cutting issue that affects multiple areas such as finance, science, industry, energy, transport, forests, or agriculture. Thus, multilateralism and international cooperation are essential to tackle the search for structural solutions.
In addition, it has recognized the prominence of the social dimension and that people must be at the centre of any solution. Among other issues, a new Gender Action Plan has been agreed to promote the participation of women in international climate negotiation, develop measures to respond to the uneven effects of climate change on women and girls, and promote their role as change agents.
The agreement has also included the “imperative” that the transition towards an emission-free world must be fair and, in addition, it has contemplated giving guidelines to the Green Climate Fund so that, for the first time, it can allocate resources to cover the losses and damages of the countries which are most threatened by and vulnerable to extreme weather events; expanding its scope of financing beyond mitigation and adaptation. Thus, developed countries are urged to provide financial resources to assist developing countries.
The main obstacles to COP25 negotiations, the “more ambitious” emissions reduction and the global carbon market, have met with the interests of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions such as the US, China, and India, in addition to Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Japan; constituting a further complication.
Now, the countries will have to present their climate commitments before the start of COP26 in Glasgow (United Kingdom), in November 2020, for the preparation of the previous report that will indicate where we are regarding the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, we will have to wait to see if there is real ambition, financing, and adaptation until next year.
Sergi Arfelis, the researcher at the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change of ESCI-UPF, was in Egypt from the 10th to the 18th of November as a COP27 observer. In this article, he warns about solving global warming as a zero-sum game, with one eye on the common good and the other on one's good.
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