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Delegates at COP25

EU calls for ‘green revolution’ as COP25 opens

Image credit: REUTERS/Susana Vera

This year’s Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP25) has opened in Madrid, with intense pressure on global leaders to commit to radical decarbonisation efforts.

COP25 is being held in Madrid, having been moved from Brazil (following the election of far-right, carbon-happy Jair Bolsonaro as President) and then Chile (on account of serious civil unrest). Approximately 25,000 delegates representing 200 nations will attend the summit, including many heads of state and the tireless young climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Speaking on the eve of the summit, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that COP25 marks the “point of no return” in the fight against climate change. Guterres listed some details from the World Meterological Organisation’s State of the Climate Report, which was prepared for the summit. Most notably, the past five years have been the hottest on record and sea levels are at the highest points in human history.

“We are confronted now with a global climate crisis,” Guterres said. “The point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling towards us.”

Speaking after the opening of the summit, President Charles Michel, President of the European Council, paid tribute to young climate protestors and characterised climate change as a “climate emergency”, calling for delegates to back a fair “Green Revolution” to prevent further devastation.

“We have brought our planet to its knees,” he said. “Now we need to dramatically change how we do things and revolutionise our approach. We have had the industrial revolution, the technological revolution: now it is time for the 'Green Revolution'.”

Michel also said that he would aim to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. He said that the European Investment Bank would align all its activities with decarbonisation targets by the end of next year and that it proposes one trillion euros to support private investments in green projects.

Michel was joined by Pedro Sanchez, the interim Prime Minister of Spain; Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Nancy Pelosi, the US House of Representatives speaker, who refuted the suggestion that President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement meant that the US (as a whole) is no longer committed to decarbonisation.

The landmark Paris Agreement was achieved at the 2015 COP summit. Under that agreement, all signatories committed to keeping average global temperature rises to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the most catastrophic and irreversible impacts of climate change. However, emissions have continued to rise, with the world’s worst polluters failing to take radical action to decarbonise their economies before the Paris Agreement comes into effect next year (marking what signatories hope is a peak in emissions).

Current (inadequate) climate plans could mean that the 2°C maximum limit is reached by 2030.  The UN estimates that the 3.2°C of warming could be reached by 2100 with devastating impacts disproportionately harming less developed communities.

Last year’s COP meeting failed to settle on rules for an international emissions-trading system – creating a market for emissions to incentivise businesses to decarbonise – which could allow emission reduction targets to be reached.

Much of the discussion over the next two weeks is likely to centre on the details of an emissions-trading system, such as the price to place on a tonne of carbon dioxide.

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