COP25 fails to rise to the climate change challenge

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After an extra two days and nights of debate, COP25, the recent annual climate change conference, has produced a deal that will hopefully deliver new carbon cutting plans at the Glasgow conference this time next year. Despite this, the outcome has been called “disappointing” with “no ambition or progress” as deadlock at the conference resulted in minimal compromise. Many in attendance felt that the postponing of some decisions, for example on carbon markets, did not reflect the urgency of climate change.

The outcome has been called “disappointing” with “no ambition or progress”

The 20 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 22 years, with the years since 2015 making up the top four hottest. In order to prevent freshwater and food shortages, as well as deaths from increased extreme weather, scientists argue that temperature rise must be limited to 1.5ºC. However, an IPCC report in 2018 stated keeping to this would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, which the outcomes of COP25 did not reflect.

The WWF said the summit showed “a staggering failure of leadership by some countries”, as the push for higher ambition targets supported by the EU and small island states was opposed by big polluters, such as China, the US, Brazil, and India.

The summit showed “a staggering failure of leadership by some countries”

COP25 had the main goals of increasing ambition and action, by inviting finance and energy ministers to discuss the implementation of greener and cleaner sources of energy. Few countries came to this year’s talks, and neither cooperation nor willingness to implement the Paris agreement were seen. This follows President Trump’s announcement that the US will withdraw from the agreement in 2020.

The main outcome of COP25 was a partial agreement to request that countries come up with more ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and to present these in Glasgow next year.

Eyes now turn to the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned by environmentalists that he would be “humiliated” if trying to lead talks whilst the UK is still failing to meet its own medium-term targets. Johnson’s £28.8bn road-building plans have been labelled incompatible with eliminating CO2 emissions, and his plans to expand aviation have also raised eyebrows. The PM’s Brexit’s decisions are crucial at this point. While the US will not discuss the climate in any trade deal, the EU is placing a border tax on countries that do not reduce emissions.

The ambitious coalition between the EU and smaller developing countries pushed for stronger plans on cutting carbon, and the outcome of the conference left many of the poorer countries frustrated and largely disappointed.

There is huge pressure on COP26

These countries are the ones most vulnerable to climate change, whilst also being the world’s lowest emitters. Sonam Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, said: “This COP was not able to meet our expectations in raising ambition to address the concerns of our people at home and youth around the world.”

It is clear that the results of COP25 have disappointed not only certain governments, but many around the world, as youth climate strikes continue. No matter the changes in the next year, one thing is certain: there is huge pressure on COP26’s, and therefore the UK’s, shoulders.

Image from GPA Photo Archive via Flickr

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