COP25 Week 2: Student Blogs

Written by Verity Martin

Welcome to week two! What exactly are we doing here?

COP25 seems to largely be one of those in-between, low pressure COPs. With the stress of completing the Paris rulebook largely out of the way and the first official stocktake of the Paris Agreement not scheduled until 2023, there seems to be little to focus on aside from the revised National Determined Contribution (NDC) submissions countries are expected to prepare in advance of UK hosted COP26 in 2020. The SBSTA and SBI plenaries are closing this afternoon with high level statements beginning tomorrow as the Ministers arrive.

But none of this is to say that anyone concerned about climate, inside or outside the venue, are particularly happy with how this COP is progressing. Half a million people marched through Madrid last week, demanding action. Great work has been done at this COP to enable and elevate the voices of Indigenous Peoples and youth — Greta Thunberg is using her platform admirably as she works to lend her audience to other youth leaders. Both groups are urging leaders: be ambitious.

Party delegates have been fighting over Article 6 all conference long with the Chilean Presidency determined to get it finished this COP. Article 6 has been placed front and centre and has been so contentested that by the end of the first week delegates had all but given up on it, concluding that the state of play on Article 6 sends "a very negative signal". Last nights floor fight over transparency has not set the stage for a happy resolution, sending negotiators home at early hours in the morning and back to the drawing board on policy progress.

Civil society isn’t having the best time at COP25 either. With fights with the secretariat over publication distribution, meeting space, and approval for vital CSO actions, it seems the theme of shrinking CSO space in Katowice has carried over to Madrid. Interestingly, there seems to be no shortage in the venue for the participation of TNCs and fossil fuel companies. Motivating ambition has long been a top priority for civil society at this COP, however, heading into the second week, with the end and no progress in sight, the question is being asked: where are we really?

The Annual UNEP Emissions Gap report was released a few weeks ago and it did not herald in hope. Not only are global emissions still on the rise, but as we inch closer to  2030 and 2050 tipping points, the level of action needed to regulate warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees above industrial levels is skyrocketing. The ratcheting up mechanism has always been crucial to the success of the Paris Agreement given how slowly this mechanisms seems to be moving, the likelihood of Parties sufficiently increasing their ambition in such a way that allows the Paris process to work drops. Parties are simply not acting with the urgency needed. They are not making use of the Paris Agreement, and the validity and viability of the NDCs and the Paris Agreement are beginning to be called into question.

What can we accomplish in the next few days that will make this COP something we can call a success? And what can we do in the next year to ensure countries show up with serious climate action plans in 2020? If the UK and the EU put forward NDCs that are sufficient will everyone else take that signal and step up? Is the Paris process working? Currently we have more questions than answers and more political posturing than policy progress.

On a positive note: I'm glad to see the increased focus on dealing with eco anxiety at this year's COP; it's certainly setting in.

Written by Valentina Castillo Cifuentes

“We are the most fragile thing on earth”, Luca Parmitano.

As my interests are related to partnerships and stakeholders’ participation, most of the events I have attended are aligned to these topics. In particular, I have been following the community engagement mechanisms that different countries and local governments have implemented in their sustainability and climate action plans. I was surprised by the amount of side events and country pavilions’ events regarding community engagement. It seems that authorities are understanding that without inclusive collaboration with communities there is no room for action.

One of the cases I have been following closely is Brazil. Originally, Brazil committed to host COP25, but last year before COP24 in Katowice, Poland, the Brazilian government announced that they will not host the 25thversion of the Conference of the Parties in 2019, due to constrains in their budget, but also because their current administration is skeptical to climate change. This announcement left people shocked because Brazil has been participating in the fight of climate change actively. Let’s not forget that the Brazilian amazon has more than 60% of the Amazon rainforest, which represents the largest and most diverse rainforest in the world. Unfortunately, this enormous piece of land is being threatened by deforestation caused by excessive exploitation of its resources regarding farming activities, mining, among others. In 2019, the region faced wildfires that affected 906,000 hectares.

Therefore, actions towards deforestation and reduction of GHG emissions have been the topic of the Brazilian’s side events. The first event I attended was an ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability’s side event where the Mayor of Recife, Gerardo Júlio, talked about towards their path to the declaration of climate emergency in the city of Recife. The Mayor stated that, despite that there have been cuts in the financial support from the national government, the city has committed to reduce significantly their carbon emissions. This is an example of resilience, and that actions need to be done now. Another side event that I attended was related to the partnerships that the state of Amazonas have been creating in order to tackle deforestation, and how they have involved their community in the decision-making processes. I was surprised by the awareness that their community has, and how they have developed empowered grassroots organizations that include women and young people. Both events gave me hope, because despite that their national government is constraining their budget to develop plans for reducing GHG emissions and fight against deforestation, local governments and communities are working together along with several partners to achieve their goals.

Another event that I attended was a special event with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the COP25 President Carolina Schmidt, and other world leaders. This meeting had a live connection to space with the Astronaut Luca Parmitano (International Space Station Commander), who is the youngest astronaut sent in a long-term mission. It was such a great opportunity to witness a connection with somebody who is watching the earth from the space. The UN Secretary-General asked several questions to the astronaut regarding his experience. One of the questions that Parmitanol was asked it was about the most beautiful and the most fragile thing on earth that he can perceived. I want to highlight that his answer regarding the most fragile thing on earth were us human beings. I believe that such a strong answer urge us to work even faster towards implementing stronger mitigation policies, and that world leaders need to commit strongly to the Paris Agreement. The slogan of COP25 is #TimeforAction, but as the COP25 President mention, the speed of action, unfortunately, is slower than expected.

Written by Lowine Hill

"If not us, who? If not now, when?"

This quote, from the Commonwealth Secretary-General Hon. Patricia Scotland, summarises the current expectations at COP25.

In the past two days, I have attended several sessions aimed at translating the results of research and negotiations into action on the ground. Country ministers and civil society leaders are sharing their experiences of working alongside local communities and scientists to help advance resiliency and adaptive capacity for the islands and costal communities.

These sessions have been extremely informative, but for me, there were two events that have been the highlights of my first couple of days at COP25:

The first event was the joint session with Pacific and Caribbean Small Islands Developing States. This session focused on how these States have come together by first, recognising that the challenges that they are facing are similar, second finding value in working together and sharing their experiences, both the wins and losses, and third looking “at mitigation within the context of adaptation” instead of separately. I think, this collaboration is timely especially as the conversations around climate change are shifting toward climate emergency, rather than climate change.

Ms. Shanna Emmanuel, St Lucia

Dr. Melchior Mataki, Solomon Islands

The second event was an all-women panel discussion, chaired by the ECLAC sub-regional headquarters for the Caribbean, on empowering local communities in climate action and ecosystem conservation. The discussion focused on the human rights aspects of climate change and environmental degradation.

The main takeaways from these two events are:

• In order to promote effective climate action all stakeholders must be meaningfully involved in climate discussion and overall governance; and
• This can only be done through an inclusive, responsive and participatory decisionmaking process.

Discussions during the the side events at COP25 are focused on putting people at the heart of the fight against this climate emergency. I think it will be interesting to see how these discussions translate in the outcomes of the negotiations.

Written by Isha Rana

Three days of attending the COP25 made me realize how far we have come on this path to combat Climate Change. But it is Not Enough!! is what I gathered from attending various events and discussions at the COP. Being here as a UW graduate student is a lifetime opportunity as this event exposed me to the real global picture about the climate change crisis. During my short time here, I got a chance to listen to people from all across the globe, and they shared their stories on how their communities are suffering because of Climate Injustice, and how their leaders are lagging behind in taking some serious steps towards climate change.

Conference of the Parties or the COP is organized every year by UNFCCC to bring the world leaders together and negotiate the climate related targets. The 25th COP focuses on ensuring that all the counties implement their Paris agreement targets by 2020 and become carbon neutral by 2050. This goal is mainly to stick to the 1.5 degrees global temperature rise. This seems a lot to achieve considering UN is organizing its 25th COP and countries are still negotiating and only talking about what is to be done on oppose to discussing challenges and solutions. As an observer at the COP, I witnessed two very different sides of this event, one from global leaders’ perspective who are very optimistic towards achieving their Paris Targets and second, from climate activists’ and youths’ perspective, who showed their extreme anger by protesting and demanding Climate Justice and instant actions.

One of the biggest protests, I witnessed at the COP25 on my third day, happened outside the High-level event on Climate Action, where on one hand Mary McAleese (Ex-President of Ireland, one of the panelists) asked people to get Angry! and get Active! while on the other hand about 200 activists/ protesters were de-badged from the whole conference.