Published on 26 November 2019
After a year when the reality of climate change is more vivid than ever before, the 25th UN Climate Change conference begins on December 2nd. New, strong scientific evidence has been published ahead of the meeting on the threats of climate change to water and land resources. We expect that this summit will set climate ambition for the next decade. But the pathway to COP25 has been rocky, with the venue changing three times in one year.
What the pathway to COP 25 says about climate justice
COP25 was originally scheduled to happen in Brazil, until far right, anti-science President Jair Bolsonaro cancelled it. Next, Chile offered to host. But just few weeks ago, inequalities in Chilean society - underpinned by a broken economic system – exploded. The social and political crisis – resulting so far in 20 deaths and more than 2000 people injured by bullets – is one of many that are unfolding across Latin America and the Caribbean, from Bolivia to Ecuador and Haiti. COP25 can no longer take place in Chile.
Ironically, it is partly a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies demanded by the International Monetary Fund that has raised the price of transport and other basic goods which has triggered the explosion of social protests, particularly in Chile and Ecuador. So the protests highlight the importance of addressing inequalities and poverty at the same time as taking climate action.
Normally at climate change summits, Christian Aid calls for specific measures like the phase out of global subsidies or investments in fossil fuels. But we are no longer calling for these measures alone. We are pushing international leaders to address the climate crisis in a way which improves the lives of the poorest, backed by investment. In these past months, events in Latin America have strengthened our belief that climate action must also mean social justice and democracy.
A focus on Latin America
Suspending the summit would have been a disaster for urgent climate action. Spain has stepped forward to host, knowing that organising a climate summit for 25,000 delegates in less than five weeks is an unprecedented challenge. So, everything is now moving to Madrid, although Chile will still lead the negotiations. This is intended to keep a Latin American focus in the negotiations, before it shifts to Europe again, when COP26 is held in Glasgow.
A Latin American focus to COP25 means an excellent opportunity to talk about nature-based solutions for human and ecosystem resilience. Latin America is the home of megadiverse forests like the Amazon, which create much of South America’s rainfall and contribute to water flow and evaporative cooling. In Madrid we will be supporting the struggles of forest communities to protect their homes from harmful land use.
This focus on forests is particularly relevant to some of the policy instruments that will on the table at COP25. For example, Article 6 of the Paris Agreement includes schemes for emissions trading, which involves discussion of the role of forests as carbon sinks. We argue that ecosystems cannot be seen merely as storage tools, but must be treated in a holistic way that involves other climate regulation services and biodiversity preservation.
We also need to look beyond emissions trading to trade in general. The free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union and Mercosur will increase trade between Europe and Latin America, meaning that more assets and farming products from the agricultural lands of the Amazon basin will reach European markets. This will have a direct effect on the pace of deforestation and land clearing that the forest is suffering. Nations should not be ratifying trade agreements if they are not contributing to the achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. We will remind the governments that the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement is not compliant with these goals.
Finance, mitigation, loss and damage
International ambition for climate change mitigation must take into account both historical responsibility and development. Many countries facing both poverty and climate vulnerability need to leapfrog dirty energy sources to rely on sustainable models, and financing and resource transfers are needed to achieve this.
But so far richer countries have failed to honour their pledges to supply at least US$100 billion to the Green Climate Fund by 2020. Less than $10 billion was pledged at the last donors’ conference. It will not be enough.
Many poor countries, from Haiti to India, are already facing unbearable increments of extreme events: more intense hurricanes and floods, longer and longer periods of drought. In some instances, we can no longer talk about adaptation. We need to talk about coping with ‘loss and damage’, the consequences of climate change that are now unavoidable. We expect that the mechanisms that serve the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to deliver results on loss and damage will be reviewed and improved at COP25. We will be arguing that financial commitments also need to be provided.
We are in a transition where we are leaving the phase of negotiating and tuning multilateral instruments, and moving to a phase of implementation of urgent climate action for a crucial decade for the Earth. We can count on as little as a decade to halve our emissions to avert the worst consequences of climate change, so we must stop wasting time. As Christian Aid, we will continue to work towards climate justice, and hope that we can build a bridge of learning, solidarity and justice alongside our Latin American partners and allies that reaches COP26 in Glasgow.
Read this blog in Spanish here
Learn more about Christian Aid's expectations for COP25 in this briefing