By Joe Stratton
The annual COP (Conference of the Parties) meetings bring together world leaders to formulate global agreements on how to tackle climate change. In 2019, a year where grassroots movements and a passionate teen have made the most noise about climate change, is it worth asking: what has COP achieved so far and what can we expect from COP25 Madrid?
COP conferences are currently the only globally united decision making process we have on climate change. Ensuring they have effective outcomes is crucial to the future of our planet.
Maybe you’ve heard of the Paris agreement, maybe you haven’t. It went further than any other international climate change agreement but some would argue that its achievements have been far from sufficient. Although efforts have been made, most major polluters are on track to miss their 2020 targets and the US have withdrawn from the agreement completely due to ‘economic concerns’.
There are two key elements here that highlight why this might be the case:
Overall, past COP conferences have done a fantastic job of raising global climate change awareness, particularly for smaller island nations who are most at risk from climate change. They have also brought together nations on the issue, which is essential to drive any change.
However, we are now at a stage where no more time can be wasted (we are in a climate crisis remember!) and the need for urgent action is at its peak.
Looking ahead to COP25
New commitments and their severity is expected to be the main bulk of discussion in Madrid. COP25 looks ahead to Glasgow 2020, perhaps the most crucial COP conference, as countries will be committing to new and updated climate action plans.
From what we know now, we can hope that more ambitious national efforts will be proposed. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated before the conference that it is ‘essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments’ and that the main emitters of greenhouse gases (USA, UK, Canada & China etc) must ‘reduce emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.’
So this sounds promising, but going forward should there be measures to stop nations defaulting on these agreements in favour of fossil fuel income or airport expansions?
There are some major challenges to discuss at COP25:
2019 is on course to be in the top three warmest years on record. It seems we hear the same year after year and the dangers of climate change are becoming more and more visceral. As ever, adding our voice is crucial.
COP conferences remain an excellent catalyst for change and awareness but it is essential that more decisive action is taken going forward.
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