Unrest, Urgency, and the Rise of the Youth: COP 25 Kicks Off
The 25th Conference of the Parties got underway on Monday 2nd December in Madrid. This year’s climate negotiations are particularly significant due to the urgency of the climate crisis as well as the social, political and environmental events that have taken place over the past year including the sudden change of venue for this years’ COP from Santiago, Chile to the Spanish capital.
On the 14th October, Chileans took to the street following a price increase of public transport fares in Santiago. As the unrest escalated and the government cracked down violently on the protesters it became clear that the demonstrations happening around Chile’s capital city where about a lot more than increased metro prices. This was simply a breaking point for people frustrated by the injustices resulting from the country’s neoliberal system. On the 30th October, weeks before the COP, President Sebastián Piñera announced that Chile will be backing out from hosting the negotiations due to the instability in the country. Chile would still hold on to the presidency of the negotiations. Shortly after, the Spanish government stepped up and offered to host the COP 25.
Moving the negotiations to Madrid has diverted media attention away from the violence and turmoil in Chile which have sprouted from the same broken and unjust system that is largely responsible for the climate crisis. The last-minute move to Madrid has also lead to under-representation of the Global South once more as the negotiations are held in Europe for the third time in the last four years.
Karin Nansen, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, from Uruguay, commented:
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Chile in their struggle against neoliberalism, inequality and violent repression. This COP must not allow President Piñera’s government to build a positive reputation abroad while oppressing his people at home. Chile should not be the COP Presidency.”
Looking Towards 2021
The previous 24 conferences have not brought the world any closer to solving the crisis as governments and policymakers have signed agreement after agreement of weak, non-binding pledges. At the beginning of 2021, countries shall be taking a “global stock-take” of their progress (or lack thereof) and setting more ambitious targets.
This will be reviewed in two stages during COP25; on the 4th and 10th of December. That being said, the reintroduction of so-called carbon market mechanisms do not give much hope for anything fruitful to come out of these talks. These mechanisms are market-based solutions which allow big polluters to trade their carbon quotas rather than actually phasing out carbon dependency altogether. In an interview with the Guardian, a US spokesperson said; “The US delegation at COP25 will actively engage in negotiations to protect US interests and level the playing field for US businesses.”
Increasing Citizen Pressure
As always, civil society’s visibility and presence at the negotiations will serve to represent the unrepresented and to put enough pressure on governments to take sufficient action. 2019 saw an increase in civic movements demanding climate justice including astonishing numbers of young people and school children. The last global Fridays for Future demonstrations on the 29th November saw record-breaking numbers of young people taking to the streets and demanding that their governments ensure a better future for them.
It is clear that the only thing halting any progress towards just and sustainable solutions to climate breakdown is political will. Ahead of the negotiations, António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general said;
“The technologies that are necessary to make this possible are already available. Signals of hope are multiplying. Public opinion is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilisation. [But we need]political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels [and start] taxing pollution instead of people.”
This echoes what civil society has been saying for years. The only question is; could 2019 be the year we see real action from our governments?
This article was made possible thanks to SEENET -South East Europe Network for Natural Resources, Energy and Transport