MADRID – The long-anticipated climate summit that took place in Madrid ended according to leaders involved in a disappointing agreement. As a draft written by Chilean Environmental Minister Carolina Schmidt was rejected on Saturday, the already prolonged summit published its final declaration on Sunday. And so, the COP25 ends the same way it started: with difficulties.
The COP25, that moved lastminute to the Spanish capital Madrid after Chile was unable to organize the summit due to the ongoing unrest in the country, came on a key moment for the world. Scientists around the world warn for devastating consequences if world leaders fail to come to an agreement on a global approach on the fight against climate change. Increasing temperatures, dying ecosystems and rising sea levels cause human disasters in a time where populist politics and trade conflicts hinder sustainable development.
Scientists and climate activists hoped for the COP25 to become a turning point. For them, the climate summit was set to become a moment where world leaders could show their commitment for a greener future. Instead, it became nothing more than a disappointment – and, as Chilean minister Schmidt said: “It has become the longest COP in the history of COP’s”.
The preparation for the climate summit was already disturbed by the unrest in Chile. Although the COP25 moved to Madrid, Chile kept its role as organizer and Environmental Minister Carolina Schmidt became conference president, as Chilean President Sebastián Piñera decided not to travel to give full attention to the social crisis in his country.
Disagreement During Climate Summit
Despite the urgency for radical, binding measures, the participating countries could not agree on a final agreement. Larger countries with upcoming economies or with a leading role for polluting industries, like Brazil, China, Australia, India, Saudi Arabia and the United States, refused to commit to strong measures that would lower CO2-emissions or fight the global warming.
The final declaration, set to be published on Friday, had to be postponed to Saturday. But that same night it became clear that countries were still not able to agree on implementing rules that would concretize the objectives from the 2015 Paris Agreement. Schmidt proposed to continue by voting for the declaration through a digital form, as negotiators and leaders had to catch their flights home – something that was responded by most people in the room with a firm ‘no’.
At the end, the final declaration became vague, so that also the bigger countries would sign. According to the agreement, countries would for next year, when the climate summit takes place in Glasgow, “tighten their climate targets for 2030 as much as possible”.
La conferencia sobre cambio climático de la @CMNUCC, #COP25 concluyó este domingo 15 de diciembre en Madrid, con los gobiernos avanzando en diversos acuerdos críticos para impulsar la ambición climática en el 2020. pic.twitter.com/L1hYEvypay
— COP25 (@COP25CL) December 15, 2019
Majority of Leaders Disappointed
The large summit, the lack of commitment by major polluters, the vague final declaration: the majority of environmentalists and leaders involved was disappointed. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “the international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”
The Chilean conference president Carolina Schmidt also lamented the outcome of the summit. “This is not enough. The new generations expect more from us.” The same words came from Chilean President Piñera, who said on Twitter that “great progress was achieved, but they are not enough considering the huge risk and challenge we face as humanity”.
Criticism on Chile’s Role
In charge of leading the summit, Chile and especially conference president Carolina Schmidt were tasked with a huge challenge in bringing consensus among countries who are partly responsible for the global pollution and the countries who are suffering from it. Chile’s role was heavily criticized by both national and international organizations.
According to the head of Greenpeace International Jennifer Morgan “The approach Chile has taken on this text shows how it has listened to the polluters and not to the people. Chile had one job: protecting the integrity of the Paris Agreement … and right now, it is failing.”
Fridays For Future Chile spokesman Sebastián Benfeld said to news outlet Cooperativa that “Chile and the world continue to privilege economic growth over dignity, health and wellbeing of people, and this is something we find unacceptable”.
According to news website El Mostrador, Senator Guido Girardi, who heads the Environmental Commission in the Senate, called the Chilean leadership during the summit “a complete failure”.
“Our leadership during this event was questioned. We had to withdraw the first agreement document because all NGOs and most countries found it insufficient”. Estefanía González, campaign coordinator of Greenpeace Andino, went a step further saying that “Chile is killing the Paris Agreement. With the texts presented this morning in Madrid, the presidency is killing the most important climate agreement in the world, at a time where its only role was to protect it.”
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.