UN climate change meet begins in Madrid

NEW DELHI: Amid concerns that the collective actions of all nations together is not enough to save the world from ill effects of global warming, the UN climate change conference kicked off in Madrid on Monday where representatives of nearly 200 countries will work on giving finishing touches to the rules governing the Paris accord in next 11 days.

The twin objectives of the Conference (COP25) are to bring more and more nations on board to work for ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050 and finalise rules on how countries can reduce their emissions using global carbon markets.

Though 65 countries, including many European Union (EU) nations — France, Germany, Italy and UK — figured in the list of the countries which will work on ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050, they hardly account for 37% of the global emissions.

Top emitters such as China, US and India as well as other countries like Russia, Japan and Australia have, so far, not spelt out their intent on either working for ‘net-zero emissions’ or looking to ratchet up their climate action targets by 2020.

Issues of putting a price on carbon and how the countries can trade in it if they have already cut their emissions more than the amount they had pledged are covered under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The countries could not resolve this outstanding issue at COP24 in Poland last year.

“You are here at COP25 to reach progress on key items — namely, achieving success on Article 6 and continuing to boost ambition in preparation for new and revised national climate action plans due next year,” said the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres at the opening of the conference.

Urging all countries to overcome their current divisions and to find common understanding on this issue, Guterres said, “Operationalizing Article Six will help get markets up and running, mobilize the private sector, and ensure that the rules are the same for everyone.”

He warned that the failure to operationalize Article 6 risks fragmenting the carbon markets and sends a negative message that can undermine overall climate efforts.

The US-based think tank, World Resources Institute (WRI), in one of its media briefs on working of international carbon market explained that the countries that struggle to meet their emissions-reduction targets can purchase emissions reductions from other nations that have already cut their emissions more than the amount they had pledged, such as by transitioning to renewable energy.

“If the rules are structured appropriately, the result can be a win-win for everyone involved — both countries meet their climate commitments, the overachiever is financially rewarded for going above and beyond, finance is provided to the country generating the emissions reductions allowing them to leapfrog technologies, and the world gets a step closer to avoiding catastrophic climate change,” said the WRI in its note written by Article 6 experts.

The UNSG in his address also reminded the G20 nations of their responsibility as these big economies together account for 78% of total emissions and therefore they all together need to step up their efforts.

Referring to the serious need to have higher targets, the UN secretary-general said he expected all governments to commit to review their national climate action plans – Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – with the necessary ambition to tackle the climate emergency in the course of the coming 12 months up to COP26, the date by which governments need to submit updated and enhanced plans.

He also called on governments to ensure that at least USD 100 billion a year is available to developing countries for measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build resilience to climate change.

The COP25 was supposed to be held in Chile. But, it was moved to Spain due to civil unrest in that country.

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