COP 25 meeting begins in Madrid and is expected to ramp up action on climate

Contributed by Jim Hayes

A two week meeting of the COP 25 begun in in the Spanish capital (Madrid) on Monday 2 December Australian time. The purpose is to discuss action on climate change.

The United Nations body met as a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation showed that greenhouse emissions rose again in 2018, creating a new record in human history, and made it clear, that the tipping point for an ecological disaster is lower than previously believed.

The report called for a timeline to achieve zero net carbon emissions.

A second report, this one released by Oxfam, details the emerging climate chaos and suggests that its findings show people are three times more likely to be displaced by climate related natural disasters than by conflict, adding that 20 million have been driven from their homes in the last decade.

Oxfam’s public policy leader Tim Gore says, “this is climate chaos…what it actually looks like.”

These reports are joined by a joint statement by more than 11,000 scientists from 150 countries, calling out a warning that the planet faces disaster, and the decision of the European Union to call a climate emergency.

The question is, will there be a breakthrough, or will the discussion be filled with double speak, all promises and no action?

Photo by Sergio Perez/Reuters: United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres

Addressing the opening, the United Nations General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, warned government that they risked sleepwalking “past a point of no return.” This is a direct reference to the failure to take resolute action to date.

Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned,” Guterres asked?

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ripped into what he called fanatics denying the reality of climate change.

“For years, several versions of climate change denial were in circulation,” said Sánchez.

Photo from Europa Press News/Europa Press via Getty Images: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses the COP 25 opening in Madrid

“Today, luckily only a handful of fanatics deny the evidence. No one can escape this challenge by themselves.”

“There is no wall that can protect any country, regardless of how powerful it is,” Sánchez added in another thinly veiled jab at the Trump White House, which took the first step toward withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord last month.

There is now no denying that the world is experiencing increasingly visible impacts of climate warming, from unprecedented fires across the planet, drought, bigger and more frequent cyclones, accelerating ice melting and more.

The Paris pledges have not really been met, and they are not enough to meet the need. Governments really do need to lift their game.

The United States, along with a small number of its allies, like Brazil and Australia, have walked away from taking any responsibility. Donald Trump has gone so far as to set in a process to pull his country out of its commitments and quit COP 25 by the end of 2020. It will then become COP 24.

Growing public opinion against the inaction of political leaders has set the conditions for the rise of a climate action movement in country after country, connecting to the growing discontent over political systems. Associations are being drawn between economic policies that favour a small elite and failure to act on the climate.

This rising mood is putting governments on edge. It means the pressure is on them to act. at the same time, the pressure of the fossil fuel industry and climate denial lobby is still there o pull in he other direction.

Teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg is arriving to address the representatives at the meeting, and like her previous appearances, will have an important political impact.

Photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters: Greta Thunberb

Governments are now facing a crucial test. They have already agreed to lift their ambitions, higher than those of the Paris Agreement. The world is now waiting to see if they are going to use the present meeting in Madrid to set the framework for a new and more ambitious agreement agreement for Glasgow in 2020.

Or will there be a continuation of political double speak – a lot of promises and little action?

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