Madrid, Dec 3 (IANS) The UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened here in the Spanish capital on Monday, where delegates are discussing measures to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement amid unclear prospects and challenges to multilateralism.
The opening ceremony began with a warning from Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “If we continue as we are doing, we run the risk of increasing the temperature of the planet and that will have an effect and terrible consequences for humanity and threaten our existence.”
He said that “we are not doing enough and we are not even getting close to what we need to do to control this situation”, Xinhua reported.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the world would need “solidarity and flexibility to win the war against climate change.”
Guterres explained that there is only one way to control the temperature of the planet and that was “limited use of fossil fuels. If we don’t do that we will end up in a catastrophic situation,” he warned, before praising the work of young climate activists.
“Young people are telling the leaders that they need to fight against the climate emergency,” commented the UN chief.
The conference is hosted by the Spanish capital after Chile, which presides over the event, had to step down as host due to social unrest.
Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez welcomed delegates to Spain, saying “Madrid will be the world capital of the fight against the climate emergency … But above all we want to be the capital of dialogue between nations united against a common enemy for all humanity.”
He said that although the event was being held in Spain, it is being presided over by Chile. “This is Chile’s COP: it is Chile that has organized the leadership and that has worked for an alliance against climate change and the success of this event will belong to Chile.”
Time for action
The major task for the delegates is to discuss Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the measures to promote voluntary international cooperation by paying a price on carbon, emission trading schemes and other market mechanisms.
The conference comes as global efforts to mitigate climate change are on the brink of failure.
“The global contributions to climate change fall far short,” said Berthold Kuhn, an expert on sustainable development with the Free University of Berlin and senior advisor to the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute.
According to a UN Environment Programme report on the emissions gap published last week, countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required.
The report says that emissions have gone up by 1.5 percent per year in the last decade. In 2018, emissions totaled 55 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is putting the Earth on course to experience a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, rather than the 1.5 degree goal set in the Paris Agreement.
This critical situation has prompted the conference, which will last till Dec. 13, to choose “Time for Action” as its motto.
Kuhn believes that market mechanisms should be well designed to stimulate investment in projects like reforestation and other climate-friendly economic activities. Therefore, COP25 is of great importance to implement the Paris Agreement.
The event comes after the United States formally initiated its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement earlier last month, impacting global cooperation on climate change with its unilateral move.
“It will be more difficult for the world to stop climate change by reducing the annual emissions effectively to zero without the United States,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
World leaders and experts are using COP25 as a venue for promoting multilateralism. Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, joined the event on Monday, saying that “if we work together, we will go faster and we will be as ambitious as possible in the COP negotiations.”
Lu Xinming, deputy director general for climate change with China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told reporters on Sunday that China will try hard to conclude negotiations on the details of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
“One of the most important points is that China opposes any kind of unilateralism and safeguards the authority of multilateralism,” said Lu, adding that China will work with other parties to help make the conference a success.