It proved to be the longest climate conference the world had ever seen. At five past twelve on Sunday afternoon 15th December 2019 – 41 hours after its scheduled completion – the COP25 in Madrid came to an end. About 200 delegates had been negotiating and wrestling for over two weeks. The outcome, however, was unfortunately not impressive: Climate protection in Madrid was postponed. The COP thus creates a stark contrast to the pressure to act, generated by societal movements like Fridays for Future. And Madrid also contradicts the increasing pressure from large parts of the economy: a growing number of companies is committed to ambitious climate protection and a clear political framework offering them the security of planning and investment.
All I want for Christmas is Article 6
But what was the World Climate Change Conference actually about? The agenda primarily covered topics concerning the implementation of the Paris Climate Treaty, the so-called Paris Rulebook: The formulation of Article 6 of the Paris Climate Treaty served as a central point in this respect. The objective is to create global carbon markets where countries and companies that emit too much CO2 can purchase corresponding certificates from other countries. Following the unsuccessful conclusion of the negotiations at the last climate conference in Katowice, Poland, one could now see orange stickers on the lapels of many delegates – with the words “All I want for Christmas is Article 6”. The delegates’ Christmas wishes would not come true. The negotiators did not succeed in establishing adequately robust rules. Rather, concerns were raised that loopholes such as multiple crediting of climate protection projects or the transfer of masses of ancient certificates from previous trading systems could be created. Hence, the motto derived at the end was: “Rather adopt no rules on Article 6 here than poor ones”. In the end, for the economy it is crucial that certificates from climate protection projects prove to be reliable. To do otherwise is not only a risk for climate protection, but also for the companies’ reputation.
Other important topics at COP25 include climate financing and the area of climate-related loss and damage. Given that the poorest countries in the world are the ones most affected by climate change, expectations towards the industrialized countries were high. Although the financial commitments were raised – also by Germany – the financial aid continued to fall short of expectations.
Raising ambition before COP26 in Glasgow
One important topic was not officially on the agenda, but played a central role in Madrid: The increase in ambition. After all, according to the Paris Agreement, the Climate Action Plans of the states are to be tightened in 2020. To implement this at the next climate summit in Glasgow a basis should already be established in Madrid. However, the states did not manage to go beyond the wording of the Paris Climate Treaty in terms of content. However, too many states have blocked and too few actors have given only cautious signals to actually raise ambitions. The European Union’s plan for a Green Deal announced during the climate conference was able to provide an important incentive, as was the EU target of climate neutrality by 2050 (with the exception of Poland). Eventually, the issue of raising ambition was also postponed until 2020, making it a tremendous task for the Community of Nations (Staatengemeinschaft), particularly for the German EU Council Presidency starting during the next summer. Planning reliability for companies will also be essential here. The economy is capable of dealing with ambitious climate targets, however long-term investment security and regulatory instruments are needed to support the transition towards carbon neutrality.
Is it fair to say that the COP was superfluous? That is not what should be concluded.
After all, the regular climate conferences do more than just build political pressure. Although this time rather unsuccessfully. But rather, the climate conferences offer a platform for exchange and cooperation for climate protection to very different actors.
The Foundation 2° also used the Climate Change Conference to hold numerous talks and discussions with delegates, observers, members of parliament and cooperation partners; e.g. at the side event „Ambitious climate protection – the business model of the century?“ where representatives of European and German companies were brought together with political representatives (including Federal Minister for the Environment Schulze). The discussion focused – also with regard to the German government’s climate action package – on the political framework necessary to enable companies to combine ambitious climate protection with economic success. For such an exchange, the World Climate Change Conference provides a unique platform.
Making climate protection a business model
Next year however, on the way to Glasgow, it will be crucial that the World Climate Change Conference serves its real purpose: To establish a solid outcome of negotiations for ambitious climate protection. For companies to fulfil their central role in climate protection – and to enable them to make climate protection the business model of the century with their climate-friendly innovations and products.
Martin Kaul, Head of Office and Senior Policy Officer represented Foundation 2° at the World Climate Change Conference in Madrid.
Information on the side event at COP25 can be found on the website of the BMU.