Like the matches that are decided in extra time, the Madrid Climate Summit lasted longer than initially expected. And as often happens in sports, the fact that a team wants to win does not mean that it will finally do so. In fact, many times a strong defense prevails that helps to maintain the tie on the scoreboard, and thus ensure that the other team does not win, extending the game as long as possible.
This is exactly what has happened at COP25. This summit had the mission of preparing the ground for 2020, when countries must endorse the commitments of the Agreement of Paris. However, the two long weeks that the Madrid Climate Summit lasted, and in which NAIDER was present, only served to carry out a weak call to increase ambition. Those countries that tried to defend the situation prior to the start of the summit – more benevolent with the big polluters – managed to win the meeting with a great defense against those who promised to reinforce their climate action plans starting in 2020. In fact, the latter only add up to 10% of the world gases emitted into the atmosphere, while the former – among which are countries such as China, Brazil, India or Russia – add up to more than 50% of the world gases. The so-called “neonegacionistas” are mainly countries whose economic growth would be highly affected by the implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change. These countries hindered the agreement on certain key aspects of the Paris Agreement, such as carbon markets (read post above) or damages and losses (read previous post), the latter referring to financing for countries that have suffered or will suffer irreparable damage or irreversible losses caused by the adverse impacts of climate change.
At COP25, the astral distance that politicians and companies find themselves in relation to science and civil society has become clear. The reality check that scientists gave us seems not to have been enough to raise awareness among the countries that contribute the most to climate change: emissions grow instead of shrinking, the world should halve the CO2 released into the atmosphere in the next decade, but not even with these.
But it was not all bad news at COP25. Never have young people played such a leading role in an international event of such magnitude. The huge mobilization of groups such as Fridays for Future put the accent on the countries that suffer the most from climate change – those of the Global South – and pointed out directly to the politicians responsible for taking action. Even with protests at the same COP , which in some cases ended with expelled participants. To highlight the moving speech given by Hilda Nakabuye, the activist to whom Greta Thunberg applauded standing up: “I’d rather not pass my exams than fail my generation”
Another small great triumph at COP25 was the incorporation of gender equality in the measures and commitments of the agreement, the so-called Gender Action Plan (GAP). It took a long time to move forward, but the will of the negotiators finally made the text include references to “human rights” and “just transition”.
In conclusion, COP25 has not been a complete failure, but it has disappointed to a great extent at a time when we cannot afford false steps. Regardless of this, at NAIDER we have wanted to draw our own lessons and conclusions from the different events, workshops and talks that we have attended during the two exciting weeks that the summit lasted. Complex problems require complex solutions, at different scales. Here are some general ideas and strategies that could be considered to create a more sustainable society:
International scale: It is necessary to change the current framework and competitive approach between countries for a more cooperative one. Without this, the probability that the countries most affected by climate change will hinder future climate summits is very high. At the same time, it is necessary to create economic compensation mechanisms for those countries that are highly dependent on fossil fuels or suffer more severely from climate change, in order for them to begin a sustainable transition. In this regard, international institutions or entities that encompass different countries, such as the United Nations or the European Union, will be key as agents of consensus and cooperation.
National scale : We need to remove ideology from such important issues as climate change. Political decision-making in those aspects that affect us all, regardless of our political orientation, must be firm and consensual. This would help streamline administrative processes related to environmental issues.
Local/regional scale (administration): Investments related to environmental conservation and climate change may involve economic costs in the short term, but they will bring benefits in the medium and long term. This also applies to companies. At the same time, it is necessary for the administrations, both national and local, to adopt a climate urgency/emergency position. Finally, administrations must “challenge” and “force” companies to integrate the environmental variable into their projects, for example, through the specifications referring to public tenders and subsidies.
Business scale : Companies have the same responsibility as administrations to contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change. A positive environmental ripple effect could be created if large multinationals require their suppliers to be more environmentally responsible. The idea is explained by Jason Clay in his TED Talk on how big business can help protect biodiversity (also applies to change climate).
Personal scale : We must accept that the pace of life we lead is somewhat unusual, and that certain aspects of our lives will have to be limited. Avoiding increasing temperatures by 2ºC will mean dematerializing or reducing some of the activities of our day to day. Everything must be encompassed within a paradigm shift where the material is not synonymous with happiness.
There is no single solution to solve today’s major challenges. This is something we must be clear about. For this reason, we will continue working harder and better to help create a sustainable society.
Next stop: COP26 in Glasgow.
Julen González Redín
PhD in Sustainable Development