UN delegates gathered in Madrid on 2 December for the opening of ‘COP25’ Climate Change Conference. The conference will be held from 2 -13 December in Madrid and comes as a next step in the process of advancing UN initiatives on climate change. The summit is expected to be attended by delegates from 197 countries or ‘Parties to the Convention’ who have ratified the 1994 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). International talks will focus on the global pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the 2050 deadline.
At its launch in Madrid today UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres outlined the “increased ambition and commitment” that the world needs from governments during the coming days of the COP25 UN climate change conference which opens in Madrid on Monday, calling for “accountability, responsibility and leadership” to end the global climate crisis. Guterres tweeted on 1 December,
“I expect a clear demonstration of increased #ClimateAction ambition & commitment out of #COP25. Leaders of all countries need to show accountability & responsibility. Anything less would be a betrayal of our entire human family and all generations to come.”
Initially, the summit was due to be held in Chile, but was moved to Spain under the Presidency of the Government of Chile, due to civil unrest there. Anti-government protests have seen at least 23 people killed with reports from 25 November and 2,300 have been injured, with scores blinded by projectiles.
Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, called on delegates and participants to be bold,
“No one can independently pull out of this challenge,” Sanchez told delegates. “There is no wall high enough to protect any country from this challenge, however powerful they are.”
What is the COP25
The Climate Conference or COP25, as it is known, or the ‘Conference of the Parties’ to the UN Convention on Climate Change, is tasked with making sure that the Convention, and the 2015 Paris Agreement are being implemented. The 2015 Paris Agreement:
“brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so”
Following agreement on the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement at COP 24 in Poland last year, a key objective of the COP25 is to complete issues to do with making the Paris Climate Change Agreement adhered to.
Climate change – a human rights issue?
Climate change affects many human rights, including limiting access and rights to health, food, and water and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri states that for some small island nations, it may even affect the right to self-determination. The UN Environment Programmes report on Climate Change and Human Rights concludes that,
“a clean, healthy and functional environment is integral to the enjoyment of human rights, such as the rights to life, health, food and an adequate standard of living.”
In his opening remarks Guterres highlighted that world leaders are not living up to their commitments, but he praised the motivation of young people and their enthusiasm for change.
“Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilisation. [But we need] political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels [and start] taxing pollution instead of people.”
Young people have been galvanized worldwide in recent months, in a movement that is taking its lead from Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg. Thunberg is travelling across the Atlantic by sailboat to attend the talks and sent a message of support to protesters via Twitter.
“Everyone’s needed. Everyone’s welcome. Join us,”
Demonstrations took place in 2,300 cities in 153 countries in the days leading up to the summit, with protestors aiming to put pressure on leaders to take action.
US Senior officials were notably absent from the first day of discussions. The US is the only country to have begun its withdrawal from the Paris agreement. The Trump administration announced on 4 November that it would begin formally withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord, the first step in a year-long process to leave the landmark agreement to reduce emissions of planet-warming gases.