At the end of October confusion reigned after Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced that the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) would not take place in Chile. Weeks of domestic political unrest had made the staging of the conference in early December impossible. A number of questions immediately arose. Would the COP simply be cancelled? Would it still be held in Santiago, but be postponed for a couple of months, or would it be moved somewhere else? When Madrid was presented as an alternative location a few days later, though with Chile still conducting negotiations, at least one item on the agenda could be ticked off.
But what is this year’s COP really about? And why would simply cancelling the event have sent the wrong signal at such an inauspicious time? COP25 continues the negotiations of previous COPs, with a focus on the Paris regulatory framework. The aim of this framework is to implement the political intentions and objectives of the Paris climate agreement. Centre-stage are the terms of Article 6: in other words, negotiating the rules and principles governing the details of international cooperation. If these measures are to be implemented transparently and efficiently there must, as a matter of urgency, be final clarification of key aspects of the transparency framework and the methodology and regulation of the crediting and transfer of emission units, as well as the transition from the Kyoto to the Paris mechanisms.
Besides the Article 6 negotiations, progress is also expected on scrutinising the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for handling loss and damage from climate change and the Gender Action Plan. In addition to these rather technical negotiations on components of the agreement, cross-cutting issues, such as the role of the oceans or the linking of climate policy and other aims of sustainable development (SDGs), will come to the fore. The discussion of these matters has recently become more pressing also because of the recent special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In order to respond adequately to the COP motto Time for Action, on the other hand, concrete and reliable commitments will be needed on international climate financing and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ratcheted up. Both climate financing and the level of ambition of the NDCs fall well short of achieving the promised 100 billion USD in public and private money, not to mention the Paris temperature target of well under 2°C.
Taking all these aspects together – the shortfall in climate financing, the inadequate NDCs, the technical negotiation details with regard to Article 6 and the WIM, the increasingly urgent warnings from scientists and civil protests – it becomes clear why the COP is particularly important this year.
When it comes to implementing sufficiently ambitious climate measures, time is running short for all those concerned, in a number of respects. On one hand, the second phase of the Kyoto protocol expires in 2020, so that its successor, the Paris framework, has to be finalised by then. Furthermore, the NDCs have to be ratcheted up and Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) communicated.
Only with transparent regulations, which link the climate and the sustainability dimensions, will it be possible to get every country on board with international climate protection. No one should be left behind. The short- and long-term windows of opportunity for this will close all too soon. The motto of COP25 must therefore be taken literally: time for action!
This year Matthias Poralla will accompany the FES COP25 team and also work as a research assistant with Perspectives Climate Research. Previously he has performed a number of roles for FES and the German Climate Consortium.
Translated from German by James Patterson
Department/Section: Internationale Entwicklungszusammenarbeit | Globale Politik und Entwicklung