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COP25 climate summit: A massive failure of leadership?

The COP25 climate talks also ended without providing a direction to the road ahead and clearly lacked decisive leadership or good intentions.

Written by Abhimanyu Chakravorty | New Delhi |
Updated: December 17, 2019 8:19:33 pm
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Despite scientific evidence pointing towards catastrophic effects of increasing anthropogenic emissions on the climate, the two-week-long COP 25 negotiations (the longest ever) in Madrid dismally failed to develop consensus to collectively respond to the climate crisis or decide on any enhanced ambition to tackle the looming threat. It failed to get world leaders to prioritise climate action even when there’s mounting pressure on governments to do so. The negotiations were hostage to widening differences between countries on key issues agreed upon during the Paris Agreement of 2015, such as rules for carbon markets, most notably.

The UN Secretary General’s foreboding statement at the end of the long talks was a message to the international community that climate negotiators are not serious enough to tackle climate change.

“I am disappointed with the results of COP25,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement Sunday. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis, he added.

The climate talks also ended without providing a direction to the road ahead and clearly lacked decisive leadership or good intentions. Even as differences between governments regarding climate action was evident, the larger question of dealing with carbon credits to offset emissions and, more importantly, the issue of providing aid and support to vulnerable and poor countries for loss due to climate change, wasn’t addressed adequately.

The latest United Nations Emissions Gap Report 2019 had also presented unfavourable climate news: There’s a yawning gap between ‘what countries have committed and what they actually require to do to limit greenhouse gas targets’. In essence, the emissions report says that greenhouse gases (GHGs) rose over 1.5 per cent a year over the last decade.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has also warned that going beyond 1.5 degrees celsius means the “bringing of eve wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts” including storm and heatwaves.

What this means is simple: the road ahead is more challenging than before and it will require countries to take tough measures. Such as meet their unconditional NDC targets. “If current unconditional NDCs are fully implemented, there is a 66 per cent chance that warming will be limited to 3.2°C by the end of the century. If conditional NDCs are also effectively implemented, warming will likely reduce by about 0.2°C,” the UN Emissions Gap report had stated.

One big issue that dominated discussions was the need to make developed countries more accountable to meet their climate obligations in the pre-2020 period.

In this regard, India, China and others have been vehemently against committing to updating the NDCs, especially when developed countries are yet to fulfill their earlier promise of meeting climate obligations in the pre-2020 period. Because as per the Kyoto Protocol, which preceded the Paris Agreement, developed countries were obligated to cut their emissions, and provide money and technology to developing economies to help them battle climate change. However, the developed countries have fallen short of meeting these obligations, which is why developing countries led by India, China and Brazil had been lobbying to hold developed economies accountable to their past promises.

“The problems we are facing today are not because of lack of intent but because of lack of implementation which is very glaringly visible in the unmet pre-2020 targets. The work programme was meant to address these gaps,” India said.

On the other hand, the United States, which pulled out of the Paris Climate agreement of 2015, demanded that the assessment of the pre-2020 actions be removed.

More broadly, the lack of consensus among the stakeholders to combat climate change reflects a huge gap between the scientific evidence and what political leaders actually intend to do.

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