COP25: Week 2 steams ahead

This is the second week of the global climate talks, the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference, taking place this year in Madrid from December 2-13. As leaders from around the world gather to discuss how to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise towards 1.5C, Greenhouse PR is live tweeting and blogging throughout the summit. 

A low-profile opening week to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) is now leading into an intense, climactic second week. Delegates, negotiators and ministers are already bracing themselves to stay awake to negotiate through the final night and somewhere into the weekend.

Environmental reports released both pre-COP 25 and during week one reveal worsening climate change scenarios hitherto unpredicted by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Climate tipping points of no return were identified as ‘within sight’ by UN Secretary-General António Guterres during opening remarks.

united nations climate conference secretary general cop25 week two

COP25 Conference Day 1: Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC and António Guterres, Secretary-General, UN

In naming this UN Climate Change Conference a ‘Blue COP,’ the UN has highlighted the link between water, oceans and climate change to reflect the need for urgent ambition. Indeed, Saturday’s International Union for the Conservation of Nature report revealed climate change and pollution are depleting the world’s oceans of oxygen, further imperilling biodiversity and humankind’s capacity for a sustainable future.

COP25 week two

Week two of COP25 will see the release of another critical report, this time concerning the cryosphere – snow and ice. Early comments indicate an ugly read, particularly concerning advancing permafrost melt of which methane emissions contain greater global warming potential than CO2.

Behind the scenes discussions at COP25 side events and closed-door negotiations in week two revolve around Article 6 carbon market negotiation. Sunday’s traditional day of rest between two frantic weeks of negotiation witnessed continued Article 6 bilateral talks on climate financing and carbon markets.

However, non-governmental organisations such as Climate Action Network (whose Annual NGO party ran through to 6 a.m. on Sunday morning) stressed Article 6 is not the only conversation in town. Loss and Damage – the financing for developing countries adversely affected by climate change caused by developed countries’ historical emissions – is an ongoing negotiation track.

Similarly, issues of human rights including for indigenous peoples around the world have been opposed by China and the Arab League, supported also by Qatar.

Article 6 talks

Regardless, Article 6 will be the elephant in the room during week two of COP25 that will test Chile’s presidential credentials under Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt Zaldivar.

Article 6 issues are complex: a new carbon market mechanism and supervisory board is needed to apportion carbon credits for emissions reduction projects.

This is similar to the former Clean Development Mechanism, where developed countries could offset emissions through clean energy investments in developing states that otherwise would not have happened. Importantly, the separation of Annex I (developed countries) and Annex II (developing countries) has been removed.

Disagreements run rife around many complex issues, including the timeframes for the life of credits and the carry-over of existing credits into the new mechanism.

Withdrawal of US

US participation is limited due to President Trump filing to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, signed by Barack Obama. Yet, because they are involved in the CORSIA aviation offset credit mechanism under the International Civil Aviation Organization, the US delegation will be focused on matters relating to this.

That said, public calls are widely expected during week two of COP25 to place border adjusted tariffs on US exports under World Trade Organization rules. This would reflect federal failure to commit to climate action and otherwise reducing their carbon emissions.

Various commentators have disputed that the US should take the lead in developing a global carbon market, or that it could even be traded in US dollars.

The importance of an effective carbon market under Article 6 was recently underlined by a joint paper by the International Emissions Trading Association and University of Maryland. A saving of US$250 billion tonnes could be made by reducing 5 billion tonnes of emissions annually to 2030. If forestry was included, the annual reduction could amount to 9 billion tonnes and a saving of $320 billion.

Somewhere on Saturday we will see if the world’s environment ministers have worked out a framework to commodify carbon. One thing is for certain; they cannot commodify time.

Felix von Geyer, Madrid

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