The last climate change Summit (COP25) was held in Madrid under the presidency of Chile. It is time to reflect on the results.
When facing enormous challenges, as in the case of climate change, it is almost inevitable to be critical of any progress, which will always seem insufficient in relation to the journey ahead.
The international community should keep a critical and demanding spirit, without giving in to pessimism and to the temptation of decreasing the efforts being deployed.
The first success of COP25 was the fact that it could finally take place. Let’s not forget there was a serious risk of cancellation, and in an example of international coordination between two countries, Chile and Spain, the event was made possible. In just three weeks, the summit moved from Santiago to Madrid and we were able to organise the lengthiest climate summit in history, and the second in number of attendees (about 25,000).
COP25 took place in a scenario of highly complex negotiations. To overcome these difficulties, the presidency led intense consultations and negotiations with many countries and groups, reaching agreements in several areas. Thanks to those efforts, it was possible to maintain the political momentum and continuity in the international calendar to fight climate change.
The achievements of COP25 don’t stop here. First, the summit called on all parties to be more ambitious, taking into account that there was still a significant gap between the present mitigating efforts and the goal of holding the increase in global average temperature well below 2⁰C above preindustrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels.
COP25 called on the parties to submit more ambitious national contributions by September this year, which will allow an assessment in view of the next summit in Glasgow in November, under the UK presidency.
In this regard, it is essential to recognise the role of science as a pillar to develop strategies and initiatives. In contrast to the previous summit, COP25 recognised that actions must be based on the best available science and highlighted the role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Kenya is one of the leading countries in international efforts to enhance the protection and sustainable use of oceans, and will co-host, together with Portugal, the UN Ocean Conference this year in Lisbon. Therefore, we should not forget another remarkable achievement of the summit: the recognition of the importance of oceans as an integral part of the Earth’s climate system, and the need of ensure its integrity as well as the coastal ecosystems to prevent climate change.
Success in the fight against climate change means no one should be left behind. In this respect, it is essential, first, to ensure the participation of women as actors of change towards a free emissions world.
For that, the summit adopted a new gender action plan, which promotes equality and women’s empowerment in this process and responds to the uneven impact of climate change on women and girls.
Second, the summit acknowledged the important role of non-state actors.
Third, an additional effort was made during the Madrid summit to engage others, apart from environment ministries, in the joint efforts, especially those in agriculture, energy, finance and science.
And fourth, taking into account the negative consequences that the transition to a low-emission economic model can have on different sectors of our economies, the summit noted the importance of a fair and socially acceptable ecological transition with decent and quality jobs.
The special challenges faced by developing countries in reducing emissions and adapting to the adverse effects of climate change remains a key element in this process. Therefore, the summit’s final decision included the urgent need to enhance support to developing countries for strengthening their adaptation and mitigation efforts, especially those particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as the least developed countries and small island developing states.
In short, the results of COP25 show the difficulties of the negotiations, in a moment of transition between the pre-2020 world and the implementation of the Paris agreement. Many speculate that this transition does not offer enough certainties to make long-term decisions on issues touching on serious commercial interests.
We agree with all those who say: this is not enough. We must move forward and do more. But, as Spanish poet Antonio Machado said, “Wanderer, there is no path; you make the path as you walk”, let us build the path towards a sustainable world. It will be our most valuable heritage to the future generations.
Mr Viedma is the ambassador of Spain to Kenya, Somalia and Uganda
Mr Guerra is the ambassador of Chile to Kenya