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.”
Capturing carbon dioxide — Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reached record levels, smashing the 400 parts per million milestone and continuing to rise. While there are other greenhouse gases as well, it is carbon dioxide that plays the largest role in global warming, and it is the gas that lingers the longest in the atmosphere. There are two fundamental strategies for limiting the gas – to reduce emissions or to remove carbon dioxide from the air. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we need to do both.
There are a lot of ideas and viewpoints bandied about at conferences, and although the thrust of the discussion, the result has often been huge amounts of leaflets, booklets, flyers and paper, often ending up in the trash. So for COP25, UNFCCC, the Governments of Chile and Spain are working together to make the Conference as sustainable and climate-friendly as possible. This commitment comes on top of the enormous challenges the organizers have been facing with the relocation of such a major event at such short notice.
Climate youth leader Greta Thunberg made a surprise visit to the United Nations Climate Conference, just prior to attending a massive climate strike in downtown Madrid today. Ms. Thunberg told the demonstration that “We have been striking for over a year and still basically nothing has happened. The climate crisis is still being ignored by those in power. We cannot go on like this.”
This year’s Youth Day at COP25 took on a greater prominence as youth have driven a global mobilization demanding greater climate action. The greater involvement of youth was recognized in September at the Youth Climate Summit in New York on 21 September. Jayathama Wickramanayke, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said work was moving along to further the outcomes of the Summit, including the Kwon-Gesh Pledge, which calls on youth to hold their governments and leaders accountable.
The President of this year’s COP is Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s Environment Minister. Today, she was accompanied at a press conference, by Lorena Aguilar, Costa Rica’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was a departure for the climate COP word, which has a history of being male dominated.
After a high-powered opening with heads of state and government, the UN Climate Conference settled down to work today, with government negotiators meeting in two large committees on a number of issues, including the contentious issue of market mechanisms for trading emission credits. They will work through the week and send their recommendations to the ministers who will be attending next week.
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.”
A Conference in an instant — This is the UN Climate Conference that was originally supposed to take place in Brazil. After Brazil backed out, Chile stepped up to host the Conference. But massive civil unrest in Chile forced the Government to cancel its plans just a month ahead of the Conference. In the nick of time, Spain volunteered to host, and now, on the eve of the COP, everything is pretty much in place and work crew are putting in the finishing touches.