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24th Jan 2020

COP25 ends with no deal on carbon markets

  • EU commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans (r). While the European Union (but not Poland) and Canada recently committed to climate neutrality by 2050, no other bigger emitters have issued new pledges (Photo: La Moncloa - Gobierno de España)

Climate negotiations at the UN conference in Madrid (COP25) ended on Sunday (15 December) with a partial agreement that asks countries to enhance their targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - aiming to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement objectives.

However, almost 200 countries failed to agree on article six of the Paris Agreement, concerning the carbon markets system.

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"The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis," said UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres.

For a conference given the slogan "Time for Action," little was accomplished.

A UN report released last month warned that the world is currently headed toward a 3.2 degrees temperature rise by the end of the century, urging industrialised countries to raise their ambition to enact deeper emissions cuts.

While the European Union (but not Poland) and Canada recently committed to climate neutrality by 2050, no other big emitters have made new ambitious pledges.

Fewer than half of those taking part in the talks (80 countries - and accounting only for about 10 percent of global emissions), expressed their intention to achieve net-zero emissions targets by mid-century.

China, India and other smaller developing countries are demanding rich countries' economic support to finance climate goals.

However, the biggest absence at the climate summit was the United States - the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but the largest historical emitter.

According to the Finnish environment minister and EU representative at the conference, Krista Mikkonen, the outcome of the COP25 was a "real disappointment" from the EU's perspective.

"It seems that the EU now needs to be the leader [for climate action]," she added.

Carbon market disagreement

Despite all the commitments of negotiators, countries did not reach an agreement on article six of the Paris Agreement, referring to the regulation of carbon market systems, set up to help countries decarbonise their economies at lower cost - the last section of the rulebook which remains unresolved.

This issue will be once again discussed in the next round of UN climate negotiations that will take place in Bonn in June 2020 and also in Glasgow at the COP26 in November.

This carbon markets system would allow nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and convert those emissions reductions into tradable credits.

However, the lack of agreement might undermine the entire accord and even lead to an increase in emissions.

"It is disappointing that after years of hard work and especially during the last two weeks that we could not agree on article six," the EU delegation said in a statement.

"We think, however, that we came much closer to agreement than previously, and this is something that we can build on in our future deliberation," it added.

Catastrophe

Environmental groups have described the lack of agreement as a "catastrophe".

According to Helen Mountford, from the environmental think tank World Resources Institute, "given the high risks of loopholes discussed in Madrid, it was better to delay than accept rules that would have compromised the integrity of the Paris Agreement".

"It's outrageous the European Union wants us to believe it's putting 'a man on the moon' with its new Green Deal proposals, but in the global arena it is falling far short of its fair share of climate action," said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

The strategy chief from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Alden Meyer, pointed out that there is a disconnection between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action.

"Most of the world's biggest emitting countries are missing in action and resisting calls to raise their ambition," Meyer added.

The executive director at NGO Oxfam International, Chema Vera, believes that UN nations have just argued over technicalities, instead of committing to more ambitious cuts in emissions.

"Wealthy nations have used every trick in the book to stall progress and avoid paying their fair share," Vera said, adding that "now more then ever, it is vital that people across the world keep up the pressure on governments to deliver more ambitious climate action".

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