Madrid, Spain. December 15th, 2019. Conclusions at the recent meeting of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Madrid were met with criticism from environmental groups and activists for being watered-down and insufficient for tackling climate change – specifically as it relates to the carbon market.
delegates from almost 200 countries passed declarations on the necessity of bold and stern action. But as the targets of the Paris Agreement draw nearer and nearer, no meaningful ways to control and reduce carbon emissions were agreed upon or proposed.
In the opening days of the conference in Madrid, the IPCC heard reports from three groups investigating the recent effects of the climate crisis on land, at sea, and in the cryosphere – the part of our world permanently encased in ice.
Speaking at the opening of the single longest session of climate-related negotiations in history, Chair of the IPCC, Mr. Hoesung Lee stated that: “the three special reports reconfirm the urgent need for immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions”.
“Such immediate reductions would provide the world with more space for cost-effective and sustainable mitigation and adaptation options,” Lee continued. “Immediate reductions would generate opportunities for investment in innovation and technologies for higher productivity in energy and resource use, in alternative technologies for a world free of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and for investment in know-how for achieving equitable transitions.”
“These investments would generate powerful benefits spilling over to all sectors of society and the economy, making them cleaner, healthier and more resilient,” continued the Chair, but by the end of the conference, the specificity of any methods, projects, legislation, or other objects that would serve to create those immediate reductions were lacking.
Also in the opening ceremony, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expects that “all governments will be able to commit now to review during this next year – on the way to COP26 in Glasgow – their nationally determined contributions with the necessary ambition to defeat the climate emergency”.
According to Al Jazeera, this was seen as a very poor start to the talks, which were also seen to conclude the same way – with the postponing of the discussions on actual actions to reduce carbon emissions until next year.
In a global poll backed by Amnesty International, Generation Z was found to rank climate change as one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Published on International Human Rights Day, the survey questioned 10,000 people aged 18-25 in 22 countries across 6 continents. When asked which of a large assortment of world issues like pollution or terrorism was the most pressing, 41 percent chose climate-change; more than any other issue.
This came just a week before Swedish sensation Greta Thunberg was timed Time Magezine’s Person of the Year – the youngest ever to receive the distinction.
Not all gloom and doom
Bold words calling for bold action wasn’t the solitary theme of the talks, with Guterres mentioning that the European Investment Bank will cease funding of fossil fuel projects by 2021 as a resounding step in the right direction.
Remarking on his Climate Action Summit in September, Guterres mentioned the brainstorming coming from all sectors of the world economy, from “small island nations and least developed countries, major cities and regional economies” joining private industry and a sizable representation from the financial sector.
Small island countries like Indonesia are moving towards green energy by creating a rural power grid fueled by bamboo.
Some other major declarations of action included…
France announced it would refuse to agree to trade deals with countries whose energy sector runs opposite of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Corporations worth a combined $2.3 trillion, employing a combined 4.2 million employees, and relying on the annual power of a combined 17 coal power plants, such as Nestle, committed to setting climate targets across operations.
A total of 2000 cities committed to placing climate risk at the centre of their decision-making, planning and investments: this includes launching 1,000 bankable, climate-smart urban projects, and creating innovative financing mechanisms.
Nations made financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund, the official financial mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change; and new initiatives were launched to protect 500 million additional people from the impacts of climate change.
The recurring issue these climate agreements face is that they are verbal agreements and not legal documents. Donald Trump “pulled out” of the Paris Agreement, but unlike pulling out of the 2015 nuclear treaty with Iran, there was no legal document that any party had to adhere to.
Whether any of these wonderful verbal announcements are honored by the time Glasgow 2020 comes around is a matter of anyone’s guess.