The 25th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25)

The COP25 climate negotiations concluded on 15th December afternoon, 48 hours after the originally scheduled time. There were negotiations, closed door deliberations between interest groups. Likewise, civil society groups constantly engaged in advocacy and making strategic interventions and demonstrations for earth’s rights and people’s wellbeing. 

Daisuke Naurui SVD, Pilar Trillo LSA, and Helen Saldanha SSpS participated in the 25th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25) that took place in IFEMA, Madrid, Spain from 2-13 December 2019 (extended up to 15 December) under the presidency of the Chilean government. Around 25,000 participants from 200 countries including Heads of State and government, business leaders, scientists and, activists attended this global event. Initially Brazil, citing financial reasons, and later Chile, due to unrest, cancelled hosting of this Conference. It was made possible as Spain took up this responsibility making all the preparations within a short period. The conference venue was organized into two zones; Blue zone was for official events, exhibitions and negotiations and green zone was for civil society action.

With each year, climate conference is gaining relevance due to the climate emergency that has taken toll on people’s lives, security and wellbeing. By and large the feeling was that science cannot be ignored. We must act now as we are on a tipping point. The impacts of climate change are threatening. No country or a living being will be spared from the catastrophe that human greed has created. The worse affected the poor, indigenous peoples, women and children, persons with disability. They are driven out of their homes and countries.

The sole focus of the Conference was “Time for Action is Now”. It aimed to address the urgent need to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels by enhancing mitigation efforts of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases. Carolina Schmidt, the Conference President, constantly called upon the delegates to adhere to the ambitious plan given the emergency that could lead to extinction. The countries negotiated on outstanding issues such as Article 6 of the Paris Agreement towards meeting the domestic mitigation goals through Carbon markets, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), adaptation strategies, Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, and gender and climate change.

We participated in various side events and joined working groups on human rights (HR and CC WG), Interfaith groups and Women and Gender Constituency Working group (WGC). These groups met daily and held coordination meetings to advocate with country delegations. WGC advocated vigorously to include gender Action Plan which was adopted. The outcome of the conference is considered less satisfactory not only for the civil society but also for many countries involved in the process. It did not achieve the goal that it set out to be.     

The negotiations were unable to reach consensus in many areas, pushing decisions to COP26, which will be held in UK.  next year. Major economies and smaller states struggled to work out outstanding issues.  Article 6 which deals with the carbon pricing and carbon markets, that would demand concrete commitments from the most polluting countries was not adopted. There was no consensus on agreeing rules for “Article 6” carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation. This was a pending issue from COP24 and now, it will be negotiated in the next COP. It only shows the disconnect between the people’s voice, scientific knowledge, and policy gaps.  Strong human rights language is also missing in the outcome document. [i]

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez who at the opening plenary had invited the world Leaders to show accountability and responsibility as anything less would be a betrayal of our entire human family and all generations to come tweeted at the end of the COP25, “ “I am disappointed with the results of COP25; The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis”.

A strong sense of commitment and solidarity among the civil society groups – indigenous peoples, workers, youth, feminists and activists was heartening. It has set a goal for the future. There was one message at the end of each statement by the civil society groups during the closing plenary, People Power, Climate Justice!’  It only reiterates the change comes from the ground.[ii]

Around 15 VIVAT members participated in the Climate March on 6 December. On the same day, in the morning, VIVAT España members under the leadership of Pilar Trillo LSA organized a parallel event, “Migration, mobility and climate change: Faith based experiences on Rebuilding lives” which was held in Puente de Esperanza. The panel consisted of 6 persons, three climate refugees and three VIVAT members. They shared their stories of struggles as they are rebuilding their lives in this country. 42 members were participated in this event. Impacts of climate change affect the poorer population the most and leads to homelessness and even statelessness. Initiatives that VIVAT members in Spain have taken rekindles their hope for living a life of in dignity.   

Helen Saldanha, VIVAT International

[i] Closing Plenary:

[ii]Civil Society Statements:

Further reading: