The disappointing results of the Conference on Climate Change in Madrid

Though one of the most frequent expression used in the world in 2019 according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “climate emergency” has not resounded enough in the rooms of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Madrid (COP25). The summit began on 2 December and closed two day ago, on 15 December: it had never happened that such event dragged itself along for so long.

COP25 is widely perceived as a failure and its final statement is a document entitled “Chile-Madrid Time to Act”. It has not reached what was believed to be its main goal: regulate Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the one on the “mechanisms of voluntary cooperation” among States – the so-called carbon markets.

Article 6 should allow a country which is not able to cut its emissions according to its prefixed goals to buy the unexpected quota of emissions from a more virtuous country. The crucial element to be dealt with in Madrid was the double-counting: how to set up an accountability system to avoid the attribution of a given quota of cut emission to both the buyer and the seller.

If instead it were so, the quota would be counted twice which would lead to an overestimation of the actual reduction of greenhouse gasses emissions. Because of the opposition of some States (in particular, Brazil), it has not been possible to reach an agreement on the matter. The discussions will continue next June in Bonn.

Other questions have been tackled with difficulty. Two of them are the Warsaw Mechanism on the loss and damage caused by climate change and the gender issue. Born in 2013, the Warsaw Mechanism fosters and supports knowledge, cooperation and action to face the environmental crisis’ consequences which cannot be absorbed by the social and natural systems because of their catastrophic nature. Developing countries pushed for the reinforcement of the Mechanism, mainly as far as the access to financial resources for damaged countries is concerned. Industrialised countries united in claiming that there is no need of additional resources but there is the opportunity to ease the access to the existing ones. A compromised was reached thanks to the revision of the Mechanism by a pool of experts: they will have to define the procedures to access the funds and to create a network in order to give technical support to the most vulnerable countries. The fundamental problem here, that is the balance between the resources promised by the industrialised countries and those needed by the endangered communities, is still unresolved.

An agreement was reached on a new action plan on the gender issue. It will allow the development of measures to reduce the impact of climate change on women, girls and children and to promote their role as actors of change. Operative till 2025, this plan intends to encourage female participation in international negotiations and give women an active role in the national decision-making processes.

“Chile-Madrid Time to Act” clearly states that scientific knowledge is the principal factor shaping environmental policies and guiding countries and economic sectors ambition toward more environmental-friendly actions. It is a debated position, as Saudi Arabia and Brazil have tried to omit the mention of the IPCC in the final statement. Climate scientists are given the task to share their research and studies with all countries so that they can increase their responsiveness to the climate crisis.

Italy will host a summit preliminary to next COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on 9-20 November 2020 and will promote the PreCOP of the young, as announced by the minister of Environment Sergio Costa during the usual meeting he held with the Italian organizations at COP25. Among them, the Agenzia di Stampa Giovanile and the association Viração&Jangada. All the organizations asked the Italian Government to increase its ambition and responsiveness to the raging climate emergency and to speed up the meeting of its Nationally Determined Contribution. Furthermore, Italy was asked to support the role and contribution of environmental scientists, to promote higher transparency in financial policies targeting the projects aimed at contrasting climate change and fostering sustainable development, and to increase youth participation in decision-making processes.

The Minister maintains that Italy can and should have a main role in the upcoming COP together with the UK, as the two countries will co-organise the event. The 2020 one will be a Conference on Climate Change of extreme importance because the Global Agreement on Climate is expected to enter into force during the event. While waiting for the summit, States must present new proposals on how to contrast climate change and, in particular, on how to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions. Costa said that there will be a PreCOP with high youth participation which will take place in Milan, probably in the first two weeks of October 2020. He aims at involving about 200 young people from all over the world, who will work with participatory methodologies. It will be a fundamental opportunity to share knowledge and experiences on climate change in different countries. Above all, it will be a crucial meeting point to strengthen the global movement of those who will continue raising their voices in the streets to ask for more and more immediate action in these times of climate emergency.

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