High Level — The start of the high level part of the Conference started today with the arrival of about 150 ministers, who heard new calls for urgent action to confront the climate emergency. The famous Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz opened the discussions with a call for everyone to take action at the individual level. He said “We are all guilty and we are all part of the solution,” adding that he will reduce his carbon footprint at his concerts as much as possible. “I will offset unavoidable pollution. Individual actions make a difference.”
The Ministers heard World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas report the bad news: “Global warming continues. The average global temperature has risen by about 1.1°C since the pre-industrial era and the ocean has warmed by half a degree. 220 million people suffered from heat waves last year. We have started seeing growth in hunger once again. Now we have more than 800 million people suffering from lack of food,” he said.
COP25 President and Chile’s Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt warned that droughts, fires and floods are hitting the people in her region, Latin America and the Caribbean, with the most vulnerable being the hardest hit. Teresa Ribera, Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition said that it was “amazing and moving” that there had been such a social outcry about climate change.
Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), made a passionate appeal to ministers to make progress during the last remaining days of the Conference: “On both a professional and personal level, my message to you is this: We need your decisions. We need your leadership. We are out of time.” UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said global greenhouse gas emissions needed to peak fast, and that solutions to climate change exist. “But any delay will come at a high cost.”
Lots of activities — The ministers were not the only show in town. While the High-Level meeting was getting underway, Greta Thunberg was again using her drawing power to give others a moment in the limelight. Today, it was scientists who were the center of attention. Thunberg said she was still amazed at how many people don’t understand the science. One interesting idea that was brought out: Some people are worried about limiting climate change to 1.5°. And others are not worried. One reason is that one or two degrees don’t sound like a lot when the weather in Madrid changes by more than ten degrees during the course of a day. But when the last ice age encrusted vast kilometers of land in ice, the world was just five degrees colder.
Al Gore returns — Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore visited COP25 today and gave his latest talk about climate change, emphasizing the need for action. Mr. Gore has given talks at many previous COPs, and again, he filled a large plenary room to capacity. With slides and a still booming voice, that at times became angry and incredulous, said right from the start, that “it is a crisis, it is a global planetary emergency.” The lecture covered the science, the impacts, how climate change helped fuel populist anti-immigration governments, and solutions. “We have the ability to solve climate change.”