The annual UN Climate Conference, 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) in Madrid, became the longest on record, following more than 2 weeks of fraught negotiations. Nearly 27,000 delegates went to Spain’s capital in early December last year aiming to finalise the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement. However, the COP25 failed to address the issue of climate change despite yearlong demonstrations and demands across the globe to mitigate it. Mere technicalities hindered the progress that needs to be made by the global community to safeguard the future generation and the vulnerable biodiversity.
This topic of “UNFCCC 25th Conference of the Parties (CoP 25) – Result & India’s Stand” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.
What is the Conference of Parties?
- The Conference of Parties (CoP) is the annual meeting of the representatives from the countries that are the members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is also known as the Climate Change Convention.
- In these annual meetings, the member countries assess the progress of the Convention’s goals and plan the next steps on dealing with climate change.
- The 2019 conference, COP 25, took place in Madrid, Spain from 2nd to 13th
Why was the venue changed for CoP 25?
- The conference was initially planned to held in Brazil in November 2019. However, the newly elected President Bolsonaro withdrew the offer to host the event citing economic reasons.
- Chile then became the new host but was forced to withdraw following the violent anti-government protests in the country.
- Later, Spain stepped in and agreed to host the event in Madrid. Chile retained the presidency, with the event rebranded as “COP25 Chile Madrid”.
What are the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol?
- Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11th December 1997 and came to force on 16th February 2005.
- It operationalizes the UNFCCC by committing industrialised countries to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets.
- It is based on the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC. Under the Protocol, countries must meet their target primarily through national measures. However, it also offers additional means to meet their targets through the following market-based mechanisms:
- International Emissions Trading
- Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
- Joint Implementation
- Kyoto Protocol’s initial commitment period extended through 2012. That year, at the COP18 in Doha, Qatar, delegates agreed to extend the accord until 2020 (without some developed nations that had dropped out) with the replacement with the Paris Agreement.
- The Paris Agreement is a separate instrument under the UNFCCC rather than an amendment of the Kyoto Protocol.
- It was meant to fully replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2020. However, it came into effect earlier than expected in November 2016.
- In this agreement, the world leaders agreed to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C from the time when fossil fuels were used and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
What happened in CoP 25?
The COP 25, the longest United Nations climate talks on record, failed to achieve its objective. Many issues were pushed to next year due to the disagreements between the member nations. Some of them are as follows:
- Last year, in Katowice, the countries agreed to most of the details of the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) under the Paris Agreement.
- The only items remaining to be discussed were the common tables for reporting.
- However, the countries failed to reach an agreement and the negotiations were pushed to next year by China.
- These talks were seen as critical for the EU and the US to ensure that the developing countries are properly reporting their emissions.
Common time frames:
- Common time frames were mentioned in Article 4 of the Paris Agreement.
- This Article looks to frame how regularly countries will have to report their climate plans after 2030.
- This issue has been postponed several times in the previous negotiation sessions.
- The adaptation was the priority issue for many developing country Parties.
- Several parties highlighted aspects related to adaptation like the importance of adaptation fund, the balance between adaptation and mitigation or Article 6 should provide resources for adaptation through the share of proceeds etc.
- This discussion was controversial with insufficient results.
- The developing countries highlighted that adaptation finances should be public funds from developed countries.
- Also, issues regarding the membership of the Adaptation Fund board were controversially discussed.
- A carbon market allows countries or industries to earn carbon credits for emission reductions.
- These credits can be traded to the highest bidder in exchange for money.
- This will allow the buyers of the carbon credits to show emission reductions as their own and use them to meet their emission reduction targets.
- Article 6 of the Paris Agreement establishes a policy foundation for the carbon market. Its successful implementation could create new channels for climate finance and lead to technology transfer and capacity building.
- The Parties, during the COP25, did not agree on the guidelines for the carbon market – a vital tool to raise ambition that can harness the private sector’s potential and generate finance for adaptation.
- There were also contentions regarding the Kyoto carbon market regime’s transfer to the Paris Agreement. This led to debates about:
- Australia’s demand to transfer their Kyoto credits into the new regime
- India’s desire to receive investment in pre-established Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that allows emission reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2. These CERs can be traded and sold, and used by the developed countries to meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto protocol.
- Brazil’s demand to count its emissions reductions and sold credits as the same.
Loss and Damage:
- The COP coincided with the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for the loss and damage associated with the climate change impact.
- The Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage was created in 2013 and it was due to a revision of its work and functions in 2019.
- At the COP25, the revision was successfully undertaken.
- However, the main issue was the contention on how to incorporate specific finance for loss and damage into this mechanism.
- A compromise was brought in by highlighting the existence of funding within the Green Climate Fund and the need to do more in the future.
- Another contentious issue under the Loss and Damage was its governance. The US wanted the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage to only report to the CMA (conference of parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement).
- However, the majority of the countries want to report to both COP and CMA.
- This issue too has been postponed to COP26.
Gender Action Plan:
- Following the success of the latest 2-year plan, COP25 had to renew the Gender Action Plan.
- This was seen as one of the only good news of COP25 – the creation of a 5-year work plan to further include gender issues in the UNFCCC.
- However, adoption of the Gender Action Plan became voluntary as Iran and Saudi Arabia disagreed with it.
- After two extra days and nights of negotiations, the delegates finally agreed to a deal that will see new and improved carbon-cutting plans by the time of next COP that is going to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.
- Supported by the EU and small island nations, the push for higher ambition was opposed by a range of countries including the US, Brazil, India and China.
- However, a bargain was agreed with the richer countries having to show that they have kept their promises on climate change in the years ahead of 2020.
Why has CoP 25 failed?
- The failure to negotiate on the strategy to mitigate climate change reflects the huge gap between what scientists say nations need to do and what the most powerful world leaders are prepared to even discuss.
- According to scientists, talks emphasised more on rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement rather than on how fast the world needs to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.
- Also, there is a problem of increased disagreement on global cooperation. Countries like China and Brazil are refusing to place any obligations on countries to submit enhanced pledges next year, stating that it is their internal matter.
- There was a recognition that tougher carbon targets are needed, but few are willing to enhance their targets, only resolving to return next year with more ambitious plans with little resolution.
How bad is it if the world becomes 2° warmer?
- Earth getting warmer is a common global problem.
- If the global temperature goes up by 2°C, it can lead to:
- Longer heat waves,
- More intense rainstorms,
- Rising sea levels,
- Endangering corals and other natural habitats and wildlife,
- Reduced crop production and increasing pressure on food security, and
- Increasing health risk
- Keeping temperature increase to a 1.5°C limit, versus a 2°C, can reduce the intensity of climate change impact on the society and natural biodiversity.
- Given the global temperature is currently increasing by 0.2°C per decade, human-induced warming has already reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017.
- According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if this pace of warming continues, the global temperature may reach 1.5°C in around 2040.
What is India’s stand at CoP 25?
- India played a mixed role at the recently concluded COP25 to the UNFCCC. It stood up for the following issues:
Clean Development Mechanism:
- India demanded the transition of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits earned under the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement. It called for the carryover of the untraded emission reduction certificates held by Indian companies (about 750 million CERs), which they can sell to raise funds.
- However, it was argued by the other countries that the excessively cheap emission reduction enabled by the CDM as well as the possibility of double-counting could corrupt the process.
- Some developed countries have their own credits in the Kyoto closet called Assigned Amount Units, which, if carried over, can remove the need to engage in any climate action to achieve their Paris targets.
Loss and Damage:
- The Indian government urged the developed countries to give financial aid to the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM).
- The developed countries resisted the Warsaw Mechanism due to their paranoia that the provisions of finance would imply an admission of legal liability.
- Some developing countries view that it would be impossible to obtain finance to compensate for the loss and damage, but that it might be able to reach a compromise on getting finance to prevent the loss and damage.
Criticising developed nations:
- India took a strong stand on criticising the developed nations for their continuing poor record on climate action.
- It argued that unless an assessment exercise of the fulfilment of various pre-2020 commitments by the developed nations showed that they were making significant progress, India would not raise its climate ambition for its next round of Paris Agreement targets due in 2020.
- It is entirely appropriate for countries such as India to insist on not taking on an even more unfair share of global mitigation burden unless the developed nations deliver the minimal parameter of their existing promises.
Finance for developing nations’ climate action:
- India also took the lead in calling for increased finance for developing countries for climate action, highlighting the failure to deliver even 2% of the promised $1 trillion in the last 10 years.
- India must continue to push the developed countries in this fashion as the entire climate action framework has been put in jeopardy by the inaction of the big polluters.
What will happen in 2020?
- Throughout the inter-sessional and at COP26, countries will have to negotiate some issues that proved to be contentious in the last few months, like transparency, common time frame or article 6 on the carbon market.
- Negotiations will restart in June for the inter-sessional in Bonn, Germany, where many of these technical issues will be taken up.
- Later this year, COP26 will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, most probably in post-Brexit Great Britain.
- On September, UN Secretary-General will organise a Climate Action Summit for the countries to present their updated NDCs.
- The UNFCCC will then present a summary on the collective progress made on climate action plans in November before COP26.
What can be the way forward?
- Climate change is a global problem and is happening right now.
- Accepting this as a fact can remove the hindrances of politics.
- Fighting over technicalities, though important, would be of disadvantage to the entire human race.
- The combined effort of the developing countries to bring in the developed nations on board to mitigate the climate change impact is a step in the right direction.
- However, India, currently being one of the fastest-growing economies, must use its potential to mitigate climate change within its territory by adopting innovative measures like a circular economic model, promoting of renewable energy sources etc. It, not increasing its target to push the developed nations, can only backfire since India is highly vulnerable to climate change.
- Cooperation to take measure to alleviate climate change should not be politicised and must be made the top priority of all the nations for the well-being of the future generation.
- Other efficient strategies to push for collaboration to mitigate climate change must be planned by the Indian government along with other developing nations.
- The like-minded nations must come together to team up against climate change through innovative strategies that ensure sustainable modification of climate change actions.
- An efficient, transparent and foolproof mechanism must be put forth to measure the progress made by each and every country to mitigate climate change.
- Future investments on fossil fuels and coals must be reduced or ceased through increased adoption of renewable energy technology.
Putting aside the differences and taking measures to mitigate climate change should be made the top priority of global politics. In doing so, the impact of climate change can be reduced and the social and economic welfare of the people and safety of the biodiversity can be secured.
Critically analyse the reasons behind the failure to reach consensus during the COP25 between the parties. What are the repercussions of this failure? (250 words)