MADRID—The UN climate talks taking place in Madrid, Spain, are on the verge of closing having set the record for the longest running COP. Below are statements by Alden Meyer and Rachel Cleetus at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), on the final outcome of COP25 and what needs to occur before COP26 in Glasgow next November.
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at UCS:
“I’ve been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991. But never have I seen the almost total disconnect we’ve seen here at COP25 in Madrid between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action.
“Led by the youth, growing numbers of people around the world are demanding that their leaders take bold, ambitious actions to tackle the climate crisis. Nearly 70 countries—most of them climate vulnerable, developing nations—have risen to the challenge by committing to enhance the ambition of their Paris pledges.
“But most of the world’s biggest emitting countries are missing in action and resisting calls to raise their ambition. The outcome here in Madrid reflects that resistance, with the absence of any clarion call to action—both on reigning in emissions and on climate finance—in the final decisions. If this stance doesn’t change between now and next year’s climate summit in Glasgow, it will make the task of meeting the well below 2 degrees Celsius temperature limitation goal that leaders agreed to in Paris—much less the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal—almost impossible.
“With the announcement of its Green Deal and its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, the European Union is showing welcome indications of taking a leadership role. To break the current logjam, the European Union must commit to raise the ambition of its 2030 reduction target as early in 2020 as possible, putting it in a position to engage major-emitting countries like China and India on increasing their ambition as well.
“Despite its announced intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the United States resisted efforts to make progress on several Paris implementation issues; most egregiously, the U.S. delegation refused to acknowledge the responsibility of the United States and other industrialized nations to assist countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change through no fault of their own. These impacts are going to increase over the coming years, and it’s essential to mobilize much greater support for the countries and communities that are facing ever-more-devastating impacts of climate change.
“The planet is on fire and our window of escape is getting harder and harder to reach the longer we wait to act. World leaders have a clear choice: stand by the blockers of progress such as the United States and Brazil that prioritize the profits of the fossil fuel polluters and big agribusiness over the well-being of their citizens, or listen to the voices of their people; the scientific community; and youth, indigenous, labor, business, environmental, social justice, faith and other leaders working hard to create a better world for current and future generations. It’s time to choose.”
Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist in the Climate and Energy Program at UCS:
“At a time when the science and the urgent need to address the human toll of climate impacts couldn’t be clearer, the deeply flawed outcome here in Madrid is plainly unjust and immoral. Instead of stepping up to respond to the demands from youth, indigenous people and climate vulnerable communities around the world, major emitters and rich countries have failed them. And despite hearing powerful calls to action from nations fighting for their very existence, the richest countries most responsible for climate change have done little to provide funding to help them in their time of need.
“The United States came into these talks having already announced its shameful intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Over the last two weeks, they proceeded to take numerous opportunities to ensure a poor outcome by inserting poison pills into key decisions such as around loss and damage. Others, including Australia, Brazil and Japan, were complicit in blocking a more ambitious outcome in here in Madrid, while the European Union failed to lead in the way many had hoped. China and India, too, fell short in committing to greater ambition.
“We already have at our fingertips many of the technologies needed to sharply reduce global warming emissions and know what it takes to make a rapid and just transition to a low-carbon economy. Whether in the United States or in the global south, communities on the frontlines of climate change are already struggling with intensifying tropical storms and wildfires, extreme heat, rising seas and drought, and they urgently need investments in climate resilience.
“Yet, those in power remain beholden to the very fossil fuel corporations driving this global emergency, much to the detriment of the people they are bound to serve. The people of the world who care about the future of our planet will not give up the fight for bold, transformative climate action. The pressure is on to exert power from the streets to the highest levels of government to secure ambition well ahead of COP26 in Glasgow and beyond.”