The first week of COP25 is past, but there were few steps forward

The first week of the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP25) is over in Madrid, but the most urgent points in discussion are far from being properly tackled. They are mostly about the finalisation of the Paris Agreement Rulebook, most of which was sketched out during the Katowice COP of 2018 (the document counted 300 pages) except for some (fundamental) questions.

The most important of these is about Article 6 of the Agreement, which covers the mechanism of voluntary cooperation. It refers to the so-called carbon market, which allows countries to cooperate in order to implement their respective nationally determined contributions (NDC – (the efforts the countries promised to make to cut greenhouse gasses emissions) aimed at reducing greenhouse gasses emissions. Behind Article 6 (and the carbon markets created all over the world, EU included) is the intuition that CO2 can be considered as any other good and thus that it can be sold and bought.

Thanks to Article 6, a State which is not able to cut its emission according to its original intentions can buy the quota of not-expected emissions from a more virtuous State. The crucial element to be discussed in Madrid (but which will probably be dealt with in the next COP) is the double-counting, that is how to set up an accountability system designed to avoid that the same quota of cut emissions is attributed to both the seller and buyer. If it were so, this reduction of greenhouse gasses emissions would be counted twice – and this in turn would mean an overestimation of the reductions themselves.

Another thorny issue is linked to the revision of the Warsaw mechanism on the losses and damages caused by climate change. Born in 2013, this mechanism promotes knowledge, cooperation, action and provides support to contain those impacts of the climate crisis which cannot be absorbed by the social system and by the ecosystem. The developing countries are demanding the strengthening of the system, particularly as far as financial support to damaged countries is concerned. The industrialised countries firmly maintain that there is no need of additional resources: instead, there is an actual possibility to facilitate the access to existing funds. The two opposite positions could be harmonised in the next hours, if the technicians facing the problem reach an agreement. But still, any accord must be examined during the political negotiations of next week.

Contrasting with the low profile of the national delegations, scientists were protagonists this week. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued two reports – which is an unprecedented event: one addressing the consequences of climate change on oceans and cryosphere and the other the relationship between climate change and soil (forests and agriculture in specific).

The data on global warming are still preoccupying, as the average global temperature is stable at +1.1°C in comparison with the pre-industrial era. The data on greenhouse gasses emissions, which are the principal cause of the rising temperature on Earth, are likewise threatening because they are increasing at an incredible rate. Scientists have underlined the phenomenon in the dozens of conferences which took place in the past days in Madrid: if we do not intervene significantly on the emissions, it will be more and more difficult to contain global warming in the limit of +2°C by the end of the century and, if possible, even more difficult to contain it in the limit of +1.5°C settled by the Paris Agreement. The actions taken so far are inefficient and the Nationally determined contributions are far from being instrumental to the achievement of the settled goals. One of the most important questions of COP25 is thus to increase the ambition of the States in relation to their NDC, before their revision in 2020.

However, the “scientific scold” is not enough: negotiators seem not to care about objective warnings. All the more worrisome is the fact that Saudi Arabia has tried to mine the IPCC credibility by inviting the panel to take into consideration the “diversity of scientific opinions”. Some countries, like those on the Pacific and Arctic islands, have sided with and defended the IPCC – given their direct exposure to the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Scepticism is high among representatives of the civil society, who are very worried by the lack of credible political leadership – the only factor which could establish an effective political will to react to the problem. The messages coming from countries like Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil are disturbing. In these States, already swiped by social protests, it is the lower social classes who ask for better life conditions and massively critic their governments for being slaves to the anger for natural resources of multinationals and foreign powers (China, the USE and the EU).

A great march through the streets of Madrid closed the first week of COP25. Thousands of people have manifested against irresponsible policies and statesmen/women while rightly claiming that the world has to face not only an environmental problem but also a social emergency.

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