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Climate change summit claims gains amid limited progress

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam, Property & Environment Editor
16 December 2019   |   4:18 am
After 12 days of spirited talks on how to save the Earth from rising temperatures that are threatening global well being, officials at the United Nations Climate Change Conference...

UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa (left); COP25 President, Carolina Schmidt and other dignitaries at the closing ceremony of the climate change summit held at Madrid, Spain

After 12 days of spirited talks on how to save the Earth from rising temperatures that are threatening global well being, officials at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Madrid, Spain claim credit for addressing some key elements in the ‘rulebook’ of the Paris Agreement – the set of detailed provisions that are supposed to guide the implementation of the 2015 climate accord.

Some critical issues were deferred for further consideration, and by midday yesterday, more than 40 hours after the talks deadline, the agreements was finally concluded, while some issues will have to be resolved next year.

But the agreements reached by parties are insufficient to tackle the crisis of climate change with urgency. There is still no consensus to raise ambition to the levels needed. Instead, countries were asked to come up with more ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the terms of the 2015 Paris accord.

However, agreements were claimed on several other tough issues. The governments claim to be making progress in a number of critical agreements to promote climate ambition in 2020, a landmark year in which nations must submit or update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Nevertheless, the conference did not achieve an agreement regarding Article six and the carbon market, one of the fundamental aspects for the final operationalization of the Paris Agreement.

When the time for the stocktake arrived, the COP parties managed to reach agreement on several topics, such as including ocean and land ecosystems in the COP25 decision; confirming the importance of science for decision making; establishing an implementation plan for the theme of gender and climate change.

It also agreed on renewing the international mechanism protecting against the impacts of climate change (known as ‘loss and damage’), calling for greater ambition through the submission of updated NDCs in 2020; and extending the Global Climate Action programme – focused on promoting and implementing climate action by non-state actors including local governments and businesses – by five years.

With respect to Article six, which seeks to regulate carbon markets to incentivise and deliver private-sector action, parties were unable to reach a consensus, although some important advances were made on technical manuals, enabling critical next steps to be taken in Glasgow in 2020.

The stocktake is positive in terms of the themes agreed by parties but, despite exhausting all possible efforts in a marathon final two days of negotiations, it proved impossible to finalize work on Article six. “Today, we as countries have remained in debt to the planet”, lamented the COP25 President, Carolina Schmidt, who also noted “the world is watching us and is waiting for concrete solutions from us. For this reason, today we are not satisfied.

“Despite all efforts, it was impossible to reach agreements. Today, all countries have a debt to the planet,” said Schmidt, who in her closing address also remarked: “The world is watching us and expects concrete solutions from us. For this reason, we are not satisfied. The agreements reached by the Parties are not enough to face with a sense of urgency the climate change crisis. We still do not have the consensus to increase ambition to the levels that are needed”.

Governments agreed unanimously on the state of urgency and the need to increase ambition to respond to climate change in the next half of the century, inviting countries to update their NDCs and to commit to carbon neutrality by. 2050.

Stating their commitment under the “Climate Ambition Alliance” (Annex 2), 114 countries expressed their determination to work on updating their NDCs for 2020, raising ambition and 121 countries to work on long-term strategies considering carbon neutrality by 2050 as a goal to achieve in mitigation.

During COP25, Parties have reach agreement on the chapter Loss and Damage of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) that gives support to the most vulnerable people suffering the impacts of the climate change. As part of this decision, it included the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, as a network to catalyze technical support to face, work and develop capacities in the most vulnerable countries.

“Raising ambition through bolder climate action plans is crucial for the world to continue on the path of greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 45 per cent in 2030 with respect to 2020 levels and to reach zero net CO2 emissions by 2050”, said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

Meanwhile, Nigerian Minister of Environment, Dr. Muhammed Mahmood Abubakar met with the Chief Executive Officer of Global Environmental Markets (GEM), Wayne Sharpe and Dr. Eugene Itua of Natural Eco Capital Ltd, on National Registry and Carbon Exchange in Madrid.

The government is interested in the GEM’s International Transfer Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) registry, which has the capacity to register projects, originate and house carbon credit projects and carbon credits originated in the country as well as transfer them electronically to buyers globally.

Abubakar who also addressed the Ministerial High-Level Segment said that Nigeria aligned itself with the call by the African Group of Negotiators for the simplification of the guidelines for accessing funds under the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as well as the need for the GCF to remain accountable under the COP.

He added that Nigeria expects to see the conclusion of the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage; agreement on Article 6 on market mechanism; continued support and enhanced financial provision by developed parties towards NDC enhancement processes and full implementation of the activities thereof to raise ambition and pursue a long-term climate agenda; goal of mobilizing $100 billion by 2020; refining the technical aspects of the transparency framework; capacity building; adaptation; and decision on Gender Action Plans amongst others.

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