The Science — The latest scientific findings hung heavily over the opening of the UN Climate Conference in Madrid today. Dr. Hoesung Lee, who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), framed the situation squarely when he told the huge, and full, plenary room that emissions were continuing to rise. “We are clearly in a crisis.” The impacts of climate change were accelerating, and the world was risking reaching the limits of adaption. If we stay on the same path, he said, there will be “enormous negative consequences,” including to health, safety and security. “We are clearly not doing enough.”
Spain hosting the Chilean COP — Pedro Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain, said he was very satisfied with the way the Conference has come together on such short notice. “Spain was aware that the climate could not wait,” so his country offered to support climate action and multilateralism. “It wasn’t easy, but we managed to do it. “It is a matter of great pleasure.” He added that the coming year would be decisive, and the “Spain would rise to the challenge.” Spain was ready to raise its action and ambition.
The social element — Chilean President Sebastian Piñera could not come to Madrid because of the unrest back home, but he addressed the problem in a prerecorded statement to the Conference. While he blamed some of the unrest on criminality, he acknowledged that there was also a groundswell of support of greater social justice and the need for a new social pact.
In fact, concern over the social dimension was voiced by many of the 35 leaders attending a roundtable discussion. More than a few mentioned the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals: to leave no one behind. Poland said the just transition needs to be the cornerstone of country’s action. Greece mentioned that even though it produces lignite, it is working to reduce its emissions.
The most vulnerable countries — One major issue about climate change is that it does not affect everyone the same way. “The great injustice of the climate crisis is that its effects fall most on those least responsible for it,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, addressing a meeting of the countries that were vulnerable to climate change. Joining him, youth delegate Lucie Peliessier said she saw the people who were suffering as a result of climate impacts and asked herself “why should they get all the consequences?” Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, said the most vulnerable countries deserve the highest level of priority. Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands said, “it’s a fight to the death for anyone who refuses to flee,” and islanders refuse to flee from their homes.
US Congressional Delegation — A delegation led by US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, came to COP25 to tell the world that the United States is “still in it.” She said she was in Rio for the Earth Summit in 1992 and since then, the world “has not lived up to the challenge.” She, and other members of the delegation, said they were working on legislation on various aspects of climate change. “We are moving forward.”