Looking back at COP25

Salient outcomes from the Climate Change Conference in Madrid, 2019
FROM: Nicole Clot – 03. February 2020

The 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Madrid from December 2-15, 2019. It was, marked by a disconnect between demands of the people and science, process deliverables, and differing opinions between countries that want to look ahead and those that continue to focus on the past. The developed and developing countries held hardline positions resulting in utter disappointment and not keeping up to the ambitious title Chile-Madrid Time for Action.

The core issues at COP25 

Raising the climate ambitions to make bigger commitments: In 2015, some countries had agreed to revisit their climate pledges in 2020. But at COP25, this was pushed by many countries to next year. In addition, the countries remained divided. While some focused on the pre-2020 view, others looked at post-2020 ambition. Developed countries stressed on enhanced emissions pledges, post-2020. However, major developing country emitters (e.g. Brazil, China and India) opposed any obligation to submit enhanced pledges, arguing that the focus should be on meeting the pre-2020 pledges made by developed countries first. They also made it clear they would not support strong language on raising ambition without a similar call for rich countries to provide adequate support, long promised to developing countries.

The commitments made by the countries are currently not sufficient to achieve the 1.5ºC target. The next tightening of commitments is scheduled for 2020. However, it is worth noting that with the European Green Deal, the EU agreed to a climate neutral target for 2050, joining 73 countries who have signed up to a similar goal.

Establishment of rules for new international mechanisms for financing the transferring GHG emission reductions by the global carbon market under the Paris Agreement (Article 6): Some countries (e.g. Australia, Brazil, China and India) wanted their old carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol to be counted under the Paris Agreement. Hoewever, after two days of non-stop negotiations, no agreement was reached, and the decision was postponed to next year’s COP26 agenda.

Many believed that a no deal was better than a bad deal undermining the Paris Agreement: As tensions peaked, a group of 31 countries led by Costa Rica signed up to the ‘San Jose Principles for High Ambition and Integrity of International Markets’, that will form the basis for a robust carbon market. It remains to be seen how these principles can help to achieve consensus at COP26.

Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage: Set up in 2013, it has never garnered momentum to provide new finances to cover climate losses for developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. There have been calls by vulnerable nations and civil society for a long time now for new streams of finance on loss and damage. This year’s COP was seen as a major moment to address this issue.

An important outcome of COP25 is the establishment of the ‘Santiago Network on Loss and Damage’, which will lead more work on ways to minimize, avoid and recover from loss and damage. Despite the fact that the final agreement was weaker than demanded, it was an important opportunity for a stronger commitment for action and support, including new and additional finance.

Decision on common timeframes regarding future climate pledges:  Whether these pledges should last five or 10 years, was also pushed to next year.

Other outcomes included: the approval of a new Gender Action Plan focusing on disseminating and systematically integrating gender issues into climate policies and the Work Plan for the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform.

Helvetas at COP25

Helvetas shared findings of ongoing programs and projects and present them aligned to international/national program and policy dialogues:

Funded by Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), the Andean Forest Program – ANFOR (in Spanish: Programa Bosques Andinos) is jointly facilitated by CONDESAN and Helvetas. ANFOR shared its experiences at a side event on ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation in the water sector: when green and grey make blue’, held by Helvetas, together with the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) and other partners.

It brought forth the fact that nowadays, only 1% of all  investments is used for nature-based solutions, the rest goes into grey infrastructure. Experience from the ANFOR program shows that landscape management, putting governance and communities at the core is key to promote nature-based solutions that ensures water provision from forest ecosystems to growing towns. This also offers great opportunities to consolidate actions of restoration, economic diversification and improvement of governance between communities in rural areas and urban settlements.

Furthermore, Helvetas hosted a high-level event on the Need for decentralizing climate finance’ jointly with Bangladesh-based International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). ICCCAD is a key partner in Helvetas for the project 'Panii Jibon' (Water for Life). The findings of the research conducted by ICCCAD were presented to stimulate dialogue among the different actors. The event was attended by honorable guests including LDC negotiators (Kristie Ebi), the Lead Climate Finance Negotiator (Dr. Mizan R. Khan) and the former LDC chair (Gebru Gember).

Stay tuned for development from the next round of climate talks in November 2020 to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.