Upcoming UN Climate Change Conference Will Reveal Whether Countries Have Upheld Their Environmentally-Friendly Promises

By: Rebecca Ramirez, 2L

(Source: unfccc.int)

The 25th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) will be held in early December 2019. The UN Conference is held annually in a country within one of the UN’s five regional groups and has grown to become one of the largest international meetings in the world. Although originally set to be in Santiago, Chile, the country no longer feels comfortable hosting COP25 due to rising tension, protests, and social unrest. This has left Madrid, Spain only four weeks to prepare to host the most important climate conference of the year. The Conference first convened after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force in 1994. The mission of the UNFCCC seeks to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human-]induced interference with the climate system.” Supporting the adaptability of the planet’s ecosystems, promoting global food production, furthering economic development, and aspiring to sustainability are among the UNFCCC’s major goals. The Conference is comprised of meetings that discuss critical international treaty negotiations and provide country-specific reviews on the progress made by each nation to achieve the goals of the UNFCCC, associated protocols, and treaties. In conjunction, member-nations will also participate in sessions regarding the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Convention.

Issues to be addressed at COP25 include GHG inventories, proposals by several nations to amend the UNFCCC, the reporting and review procedures for developed countries, proposals from developing countries who are “particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate change,” and matters relating to indigenous peoples. UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote that COP25 will provide a forum to hold countries accountable for their commitments. Several national commitments include achieving net 0 carbon emissions by 2050, carbon neutrality, 100% renewable energy by 2030, and planting 11 billion trees.

In anticipation of COP25, the Council of the European Union emphasized its concern about the global impact of climate change and the increasing decline in global biodiversity, water resources, and ecosystem health. Relatedly, the EU created binding legislation to enforce its commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 40% by 2030. By next year, the EU is predicted to overachieve its 2020 GHG emission reduction goal. The EU also encouraged other countries to uphold their promises under the Paris Agreement.

Reports resulting from COP25 will inevitably address the global carbon market. A primary dispute among critics is the means of achieving the ambitious abatement mandates under the Paris Agreement through carbon market mechanisms. These concerns arise from a recent report which found that low-emission goals are achievable when businesses adopt low-carbon strategies and when governments provide complementary support through policy.

COP25 should leave in its wake a revived global ambition for countries to reassess the status of their emission inventories and reduction targets. Continued mitigation of the effects of climate change requires improved enforcement of Convention obligations, passage of binding legislation, compliance by industry and business, financial support of scientific research, and amplification of the calls to action by civil society groups and individuals.

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