It was four years ago today that the Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21. The historic agreement, which charted a new and optimistic future for tackling climate change, was signed by most countries on 22 April 2016, and in record-breaking fashion, entered into effect on 4 November 2016. Today, it has 195 signatories and 187 parties. Since its adoption, global attention has focused on preparing the rulebook for implementing the Agreement, most of which was completed last year in Katowice, Poland, with the remaining portions under consideration here in Madrid. The United States has signaled that they intend to withdraw from the Agreement next November, but the country is still a party and fully engaged in the negotiations.
Heading toward the endgame — The Conference is due to conclude tomorrow, but there hasn’t been a COP that has ended on time in more than a decade. Often, the talks carry on through Friday night and into Saturday. In some cases, Sunday. Everyone is taking guesses about when this will wrap up.
There is still a way to go. Carlos Fuller, the lead negotiator for a coalition of small islands, said COP 25 was demonstrating very little ambition. “We are appalled at the state of negotiations. At this stage, we are being cornered. We fear having to concede on too many issues that would damage the very integrity of the Paris Agreement. What’s before us is a level of compromise so profound that it underscores a lack of ambition, seriousness about the climate emergency and the urgent need to secure the fate of our islands.”
An initial plenary was held tonight, but it is anticipated that most of the difficult issues will wait for the hours that lie ahead.
Climate action, jobs, and communities — The urgent need for climate action to reduce emissions sometimes obscures the immediate impact of action on people. In the real world, this has had very real consequences, with major opposition coming from people who face losing a job or paying higher prices due to climate action. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Today, millions of workers are on the front lines of climate impacts. Many in sectors like tourism and agriculture are losing livelihoods.”
The answer to the climate crisis lies in transforming how we generate our power, design our cities, and manage our land, he continued. But it “also requires that our actions are consistent with making people’s lives better. It means ensuring that national commitments under the Paris Agreement include a just transition for people whose jobs and livelihoods are affected as we move from the grey economy to the green.”
At the Climate Action Summit in New York in September, the “Climate Action for Jobs” initiative was launched, developed with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Spain and Peru. ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said that no less than 46 governments are supporting “a just ecological transition, by formulating national plans for just transition creating decent work as well as green jobs.”
Climate change and work go hand in hand. Ryder said, “we must recognize that if climate change is a consequence of human activity, then that activity is, for the most part, work or work-related. So, it follows that if work is the primary cause of climate change, then it must also be central to the strategies that we need to prevent, mitigate and adapt to it, and that the key actors of the world of work – governments, workers and employers – must be leading players in their design and implementation.”