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Climate Change Tracker: Agreeing to disagree

International climate change negotiations on a variety of important subjects seems to have stalled, and this is bad news for the planet

Climate activists at the UN COP 25 summit in Madrid
Climate activists at the UN COP 25 summit in Madrid (Photo: Getty Images)

"Each year at COP we are told that the window of opportunity could close soon. The window of opportunity is closing now. My message is this. We need your decisions. We need your leadership. We are out of time." Warnings don’t get clearer than this. Executive secretary Patricia Espinosa was referring to the apparent inability of member nations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to come to an agreement.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) was set up as the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC to review, evaluate and implement the convention and other legal and administrative arrangements. Basically, measures to tackle the climate crisis can’t be implemented without it. At the summit in Madrid which ended on 13 December, the main order of business covered a range of subjects, from tackling the practicalities of climate finance, including carbon markets, to the transfer of technology and issues of loss and damages. Developing countries, especially African nations and small island states that are already battling climate change outcomes, have also been pushing for adaptation to be made the central point of negotiations.

Click here to listen to the latest episode of Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast

The talks have gone nowhere. There is no consensus on the UNFCCC’s periodic review of climate goals and the progress of member nations towards achieving them. Global climate negotiations, despite all the stirring speeches and virtue signalling, are stuck.

Even European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s announcement on 11 December of a EU Green Deal is expected to hit serious roadblocks. The plan looks good on paper: among other goals, a carbon-neutral Europe by 2050; 50-55% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030; tightening of energy-efficiency laws; a zero-carbon steel industry; and the restoration of European forests. However, the EU will have to get its member states to play ball, with France, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary all set to block aspects of the deal. There are also powerful lobbies in agriculture, car manufacturing and other industries that will try to block the deal.

Everywhere one looks, entropy seems to have gripped climate change mitigation efforts. Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been named the Times Person of the Year, was suitably sceptical at her COP 25 speech: “It seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition." Or, as UN secretary general António Guterres said, “If we just go on as we are, we are doomed."

Click here to listen to the latest episode of my Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast. Follow the series with #MintClimateTracker.

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