COP25: UN Climate Change Conference, 5 Things You Need to Know

Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 29 2019 (IPS)

Climate
change
is happening—the world is already 1.1°C warmer than
it was at the onset of the industrial revolution, and it is already
having a significant impact on the world, and on people’s lives.
And if current trends persist, then global temperatures can be
expected to rise by 3.4 to 3.9°C this century, which would bring
wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts.

That’s the stark warning from the international community
ahead of the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP25,
which gets underway in the Spanish capital, Madrid, on 2 December.
So, just two months after the Secretary-General convened a major
Climate
Action Summit
at UN Headquarters in New York, what can be
expected from COP25?

 

1. We just had the Climate Action Summit in New York.
How is COP25 different?

The Climate Action Summit in September was the initiative of the
UN Secretary-General to focus the attention of the international
community on the climate emergency and to accelerate actions to
reverse climate change. The Climate Conference (held in Madrid
after the meeting was moved from Chile due to unrest there), COP25,
is the actual Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on
Climate Change, UNFCCC, which is tasked with making sure that the
Convention, (and now the 2015 Paris Agreement, which strengthens
the Convention), are being implemented.

 

COP25: UN climate change conference, 5 things you need to know

2. But why all the UN attention on the
climate?

There is more evidence of the impacts of climate change,
especially in extreme weather events, and these impacts are taking
a greater toll.  The science shows that emissions are still going
up, not down.

According to the 2019 WMO Greenhouse Gas
Bulletin
, levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere have reached another new record high. This continuing
long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted
with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including
rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level
rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned, in its 2019
Emissions
Gap Report
, that greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 7.6 per
cent per year from 2020 to 2030 are needed to meet the
internationally agreed goal of a 1.5°C increase in temperatures
over pre-industrial levels. Scientists agree that’s a tall order,
and that the window of opportunity is growing smaller.

 

3. So what did the September Climate Action Summit
achieve?

The summit served as a springboard ahead of crucial 2020
deadlines established by the
Paris Agreement
, focusing global attention on the climate
emergency and the urgent need to significantly scale up action. And
leaders, from many countries and sectors, stepped up.

COP25 is the final COP before we enter the defining year of
2020, when many nations must submit new climate action plans. Among
the many elements that need to be ironed out is the financing of
climate action worldwide

More than seventy countries committed to net zero carbon emissions
by 2050, even if major emitters have not yet done so.  More than
100 cities did the same, including several of the world’s
largest.

Small island states together committed to achieve carbon
neutrality and to move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. 
And countries from Pakistan to Guatemala, Colombia to Nigeria, New
Zealand to Barbados vowed to plant more than 11 billion trees.

More than 100 leaders in the private sector committed to
accelerating the green economy. A group of the world’s largest
asset-owners, controlling $2 trillion, pledged to move to
carbon-neutral investment portfolios by 2050. This is in addition
to a recent call by asset managers representing nearly half the
world’s invested capital, some $34 trillion, for global leaders
to put a meaningful price on carbon and phase out fossil fuel
subsidies and thermal coal power worldwide.

 

4. Hang on: UNEP, WMO, IPCC, UNFCCC, COP…why all the
acronyms?

It’s true that the UN is a very acronym-heavy place. These
ones all represent international tools and agencies that, under the
leadership of the UN, were created to help advance climate action
globally. Here’s how they fit together.

UNEP is the UN
Environment Programme, the leading global environmental authority
that sets the global environmental agenda and serves as an
authoritative advocate for the global environment. WMO stands for
World Meteorological Office, the UN agency for international
cooperation in areas such as weather forecasting, observing changes
in the climate, and studying water resources.

In 1988 the UN General Assembly asked UNEP and the WMO to
establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made of
hundreds of experts, in order to assess data, and providing
reliable scientific evidence for climate action negotiations.

All three UN bodies publish reports that, in recent years, have
frequently made international headlines, as concerns about the
climate crisis have grown.

As for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this document was signed
at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the treaty,
nations agreed to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the
atmosphere” to prevent dangerous interference from human activity
on the climate system.

Today, 197 countries are parties to the treaty. Every year since
the treaty entered into force in 1994, a “conference of the
parties”, or COP, has been held to discuss how to move forward.
Madrid will hold the 25th COP, therefore COP25.

 

5. And what’s important about this COP?

Because the UNFCCC had non-binding limits on
greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries, and no
enforcement mechanism, various extensions to this treaty were
negotiated during recent COPs, including most recently the
Paris Agreement
, adopted in 2015, in which all countries agreed
to step up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above
pre-industrial temperatures and boost climate action financing.

COP25 is the final COP before we enter the defining year of
2020, when many nations must submit new climate action plans. Among
the many elements that need to be ironed out is the financing of
climate action worldwide.

Currently, not enough is being done to meet the three climate
goals: reducing emissions 45 per cent by 2030; achieving climate
neutrality by 2050 (which means a net zero carbon footprint), and
stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5°C by the end of the
century.

Because the clock is ticking on climate change, the world cannot
afford to waste more time, and a bold, decisive, ambitious way
forward needs to be agreed.

 

This story was originally published by UN
News

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COP25: UN Climate Change Conference, 5 Things You Need to Know

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COP25: UN Climate Change Conference, 5 Things You Need to Know