A Look Ahead to the Final Week of UN Climate Talks in Madrid

Statements by Alden Meyer, Rachel Cleetus

Published Dec 9, 2019

MADRID—The second week of UN climate talks taking place in Madrid, Spain begins today. Below are statements by Alden Meyer and Rachel Cleetus at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), offering a recap of COP25 so far and a look forward to next week’s work.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at UCS:

“On opening day of the Madrid climate summit, we heard clear warnings from Secretary-General Guterres and others that there needs to be a much more urgent response to the climate emergency than we’re now seeing, especially from the biggest emitting countries. The planet is on fire and our window of escape is getting harder and harder to reach the longer we wait to act.

“Over the last week, we haven’t seen negotiators rise to this challenge, especially when it comes to raising the ambition of emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement and mobilizing greater support for vulnerable countries and communities facing ever-more-devastating impacts of climate change.

“Most vulnerable countries have joined a growing number of state and local governments, business leaders, investors and others—both in the United States and around the world—in announcing ambitious climate action commitments. Sadly, the world’s biggest emitting countries, which account for all but 19 percent of global carbon emissions, have failed to take responsibility to do what’s required to stave off some of the worst impacts. These countries need to confirm their intentions to take such actions in 2020.

“The review of work over the last five years under the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage has demonstrated that current support for countries on the front lines of the climate emergency is grossly inadequate. There must be a path forward that ensures vulnerable countries will see finance and capacity-building support substantially scaled-up to address the loss and damage they are already experiencing.

“The world is looking for leadership to fill the vacuum created when President Trump made the irresponsible decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. The European Union has the chance to do just this at its meeting of leaders on Thursday and Friday; they must signal their intention to increase their 2030 emissions reduction target and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Only then will the EU be able to partner with China, India and other major-emitting countries in substantially increasing ambition leading up to next November’s climate summit in Glasgow.

“There are just five days left for ministers now here in Madrid to demonstrate they’ve heard the voices of scientists, youth, and others who are demanding urgent action to the climate crisis. The eyes of the world are upon them.”

Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist in the Climate and Energy Program at UCS:

“More intense hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and wildfires; rising seas; worsening drought and record-breaking heat—every day we are shown more undeniable evidence that the climate crisis is already here. Those that are being hit hardest are often the same people that did the least to contribute to this runaway train of a problem.

“During the first week of COP25, we heard powerful calls to action from many countries most vulnerable to climate impacts who are fighting for their very existence. This past Friday in Madrid we saw yet another protest led by 500,000 global youth, indigenous groups and many others on the frontlines of climate impacts. Still, the world’s richer nations have done little to provide funding to aid those already suffering the deadly effects of climate change.

“We already have at our fingertips many of the technologies needed to sharply reduce global warming emissions and get us on a better path, yet nations continue to prop up an uneconomic and harmful dependence on fossil fuels that’s driving this global emergency. Instead of remaining beholden to powerful fossil fuel corporations, it’s time for world leaders to heed the calls of those they are bound to represent above all else: the people. Major emitting nations must commit to a rapid and just transition to a low-carbon economy. Every year of delay makes the challenge steeper and increases the toll of human suffering and economic costs. Kicking the can down the road is no longer an acceptable response. The time for action is now.”