The 25th Conference of Parties (CoP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was scheduled as a 12-day summit. Delegates from the 200-odd nations, who had assembled at the Spanish capital of Madrid for the meet, ended up working two more days. But for all their efforts, the negotiators only managed to highlight the disconnect between global climate diplomacy and the imperative of bringing down GHG emissions. The longest meet in the UNFCCC’s history concluded on Sunday with an “agreement” mired in generalities and which lacks a roadmap to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Pact. The main item on the meet’s agenda — framing rules for setting up a new carbon market under the Paris Agreement — has been deferred to next year.
The Madrid talks were expected to nudge all countries to scale up their commitments under the Paris Pact — Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs — in view of recent studies which show that the world is not doing enough to prevent the extreme impacts of climate change. The Small Island Nations have been pushing for strong directives to all countries to upscale their NDCs in light of the changed realities. At Madrid, they were supported by the EU countries. The developed countries, including the EU, were, however, non-committal when it came to honouring their previous pledges on funds and technology transfers to the developing countries. The talks hit a roadblock when India, China and Brazil argued that they would not support strong language on raising ambitions without a similar call for rich countries to honour their past commitments. CoP 25’s final declaration does “invite new climate pledges that represent a progression beyond previous pledges and the highest possible ambition”. But it doesn’t stipulate a schedule for updating NDCs. And, the demand of the developing countries for a two-year programme to assess the performance of developed countries — reflected in the draft Madrid agreement — does not find a place in CoP 25’s final declaration.
The spirit of solidarity that tinged the Paris summit has been witnessed only sporadically after the landmark pact was inked. Individual NDCs have not added up to the pact’s goal of keeping global temperatures below 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. Framing the treaty’s rules has been a tortuous process that has re-animated past differences over funding and technology transfers. Meanwhile, protests in different parts of the world have called out environmental negotiators for their inertia. CoP 25 was an opportunity to answer the questions that have been raised over the UNFCCC’s processes. Unfortunately, the two weeks of negotiations at Madrid have been an opportunity lost.
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