By Joe Montero
Calling the final result of the COP25 Madrid summit a disappointment is an understatement, when you consider the stakes involved.
The looming crisis threatens the ongoing viability of a healthy planet, economic and social collapse on a massive scale.
At a time when the scientific community is warning about how serious the crisis humanity face is; when millions of kids around the world are skipping class to demand action, as part of the emergence of a social movement, bigger in scale, than anything seen for a long time.
The science tells us that on the current course, the prospect is 3 or 4 degrees warming is the reality.
When the summit started a half a million people were out in the streets of Madrid to call for urgent action. Concerned citizens took part in activities every day of the summit. Representatives indigenous peoples invaded the meeting hall, as did young activists. Extinction Rebellion was there. Alternative meetings and press conferences were held. Greta Thunberg took part and said that the hope lies not in those inside the building but those outside it.
One would have thought that the politicians and bean counters would have taken more notice.
Not that everyone at COP25 should be tarred with the same brush. There were those who did try to push for more action on the climate crisis. All told, 81 nations made pledges to lift their performance. The problem is that just about as many did not.
Cop25 ended up a talk fest, mainly concerned with side issues. Little attention was given to the main game – outlining concrete action to take carbon emissions reduction to a sustainable level.
The talks were scheduled to end on Friday. They didn’t. It looks like the main concern was to cover postponing decision making yet again. This time till COP 26 takes place in Glasgow in 10 months.
Longest UN climate talks end with no deal on carbon markets
Video from euronews (in English)
The result? A statement that vaguely mentioned the need to lift efforts, while lacking any concrete measures. It was worthy of an episode of Yes Minister. You say you’re going to do something in order to do nothing.
It is clear the intention to maintain the dominant economic and political power, and impose the greatest part of the burden of reducing carbon emissions on developing nations, while evading the responsibility of the historically biggest contributors to the climate crisis.
Developing nations pointed out that it was not they that produced the greatest part of the cumulative harmful emissions, and that they do not have the resources to transfer to sustainable economies without help from the developed world.
Unless this problem, a hangover from past colonialism and the dominance of the west, is sorted out, achieving a global agreement on the climate crisis is extremely difficult. The unhealthy relationship has created underdevelopment and poverty. They must also be overcome.
The unwillingness of the historically powerful nations to budge meant that Madrid was going to be largely dead in the water. The most that could be achieved, was to again postpone decision making.
Until the developed world accepts that it owes a debt to assist the developing world, to transform from a carbon economy and acts on it, little is going to change.
Instead of tacking on this bigger issue, the focus was on the rules for the carbon credits trading system. The trouble is that the division between the developed and developing world intruded. The latter group refused to continue to be hoodwinked.
This carbon credit system was supposed to have been designed to help developing nations Poor nations do not have the means to solve the problems of economic, social and environmental needs on their own, and are often blocked by multinationals based in the major developed countries.
Some of the wealthiest nations continued to push for the poorest to shoulder a greater share of the burden, while allowing themselves to be the main beneficiaries. They have the financial means to ensure their advantage.
Another problem is that neoliberalism and its obsession with government intervention always being wrong, and the narrow view that only the market can provide answers.
The existance of a carbon market be a reality of the contemporary global economy and its balance of power. This does not mean that it can be relied on to provide what is needed.
Only those nations where their government is intervening and dealing with an obvious market failure, are setting measurable and significant targets.
The European Union has made a political decision to lift its game and set a binding net zero emissions target for 2050.
Despite the difficulty of going through the challenges of industrialisation, China and India have set ambitious emission reduction targets covering the next two decades. Theirs is also a political decision based on government intervention.
On the other side is the United States followed by the usual entourage, including Australia, emboldened with the Trump withdrawal from Paris, and wishing to maintain the unequal relationship between the developed and developing nations.
Behind this lurks the patronage fossil fuel and carbon addicted industries, which Have motive to stop changing the way things are.
To get into context how seriously the brakes are being put on. The Paris agreement is itself a watered-down version of the previous accord made at Kyoto, designed to keep the Americans in the camp.
An attemt is being made to now derail Paris.
The Paris targets were supposed to be reached by 2020. They hasve not been met.
This year was supposed to be the time when the ambitions were to be lifted to a higher level. Instead, we have a rise by a further 7 percent since the Paris agreement was signed in 2016.
For all the talks, the world is going backwards.
Even the practical reality that severe global warming severe weather events are hitting right now has failed to produce movement. The science tells us that in the current course, the prospect is 3 or 4 degrees warming, and this is enough to threaten environmental, economic and social collapse. It still falls on deaf ears.
The refusal of the United states is driven by its refusal to take responsibility for its role in creating the problem and refusing to help poorer nations.
Hope lies in that the failure is building a movement, from the ground up, which has the potential to bring about change.
There is no shortage of voices speaking out.
Her are a few examples.
Jamie Henn, the strategy director at 350.org, said:
“The level of disconnect between what this COP25 should have delivered and what it’s on track to deliver is appalling and is a sign that the very foundations of the Paris agreement are being shaken up. A handful of loud countries has hijacked the process and is keeping the rest of the planet hostage.”
Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). called it a “staggering failure.” UN Chief Antonio Guterres expressed his “disappointment.” Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, said: “World leaders’ collective failure to act is not only inexcusable, but rises to a failure of government and of leadership of historical proportions.”
Laurence Tubiana, French economist, academic and diplomat said:
“Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations but thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters.”
Strategy chief at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Alden Meyer, added:
“Never have I seen such a disconnect between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action. Most of the world’s biggest emitting countries are missing in action and resisting calls to raise their ambition.”
Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International, said:
“The world is screaming out for climate action, but this summit had responded with a whisper. The poorest nations are in a sprint for survival, yet many governments have barely moved from the starting blocks. Instead of committing to more ambitious cuts in emissions, countries have argued over technicalities.
“Poorer nations spoke with one voice to demand funds to help them recover from the loss and damage inflicted by the climate emergency. For the homes that have become uninhabitable, the land that has become un-farmable, and the lives that have become unbearable. Wealthy nations have used every trick in the book to stall progress and avoid paying their fair share.
“Now more than ever, it is vital that people across the world keep up the pressure on governments to deliver more ambitious climate action.”