COP25 lays the foundations for countries to be more ambitious in their response to climate emergency

Spain - 
Luis González, counsel in the Public Law Department at Garrigues

Although pledges were secured, many are disappointed with the outcome of this climate summit because it failed to achieve the objectives set for it.


Last Sunday (December 15) after a period of intense negotiations and a two-day extension, COP25, the longest UN climate change talks on record, ended without managing to step up the commitments to combat climate change.

The Chile-Madrid Time for Action agreement bringing COP25 to a close end lays the foundations for countries to submit in 2020 more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions in response to the climate emergency. The agreement declared the “urgent need” for these new commitments by countries to bridge the existing gap in the current commitments regarding the Paris goal to avoid a temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees.

Countries must submit their climate commitments before the next climate conference, to be held in Glasgow in November 2020, to allow the UN to prepare a summary report before COP26 describing where we are at in relation to the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit the rise in temperature of the planet at 1.5ºC.

Moreover, the final Decision, adopted by the close to 200 countries participating in the UN’s climate conference, recognizes the importance of climate action by non-governmental parties.

The countries also undertake to work on the design of market mechanisms at the next COP that will prevent double accounting, serve to bolster the ambition of the Paris Agreement, and secure the environmental integrity of the system.

It has also been agreed to provide guidance to the Green Fund for the climate, aimed at having it extend the scope of the funding it provides and allocate funds, for the first time, to the losses and damage caused to the most vulnerable countries affected by the impacts of extreme weather conditions. Another initiative is the Santiago Network, set up to allow the contribution of technical assistance by organizations and experts to vulnerable countries to improve their ability to respond to the effects of global warming. This was one of the most common demands of small island states that feel the severest impacts of climate change more directly.

Additionally, the negotiators agreed to a new Gender Action Plan that will enable measures to be devised to respond to the unequal effect of climate change on women and girls, and the promotion of their role as agents of change in this process towards an emission-free world.

The adopted agreement also states that scientific knowledge is the main cornerstone that should guide decisions regarding climate change and the enhanced ambition of countries and the other sectors.

For the first time, the social dimension of the climate agenda played a leading role at this COP25. The wording contains the “imperative” that the transition towards an emission-free world must be just, and drive the creation of decent, quality jobs.

Lastly, the decision included references to two recent reports by the IPCC on oceans and land use. In particular, the parties have decided to hold a forum for dialogue on oceans and another for land use at a meeting in June 2020.

The ministry for ecological transition has also highlighted some milestones in climate action at COP25, notably:

  • The European Union has presented its Green New Deal, a road map for including climate action in all policies, through which it has undertaken to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. There has also been a decision to convert the European Investment Bank into a “Climate Bank”, which will enable one trillion euros in investment to be released over the next ten years. The European Investment Bank has also announced it will stop financing projects related to fossil fuels in 2021.
  • Twenty or so banks, including major international institutions, agreed to align themselves with the Paris Agreement.
  • The Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action made up of 51 countries, including Spain, has signed the Santiago Action Plan, which undertakes to introduce climate change in its economic and financial policies with zero or low growth in emissions.
  • The Inter-American Development Bank announced the creation of a Network of Central and Supervisory Banks: an international platform to secure a green financial system internationally.
  • At COP25 the number of investment funds undertaking to ensure their portfolios are carbon neutral as soon as possible doubled, rising from portfolios managing 2.4 trillion dollars at the climate conference in New York climate to 4 trillion at COP25.
  • Although the Paris Agreement sets 2020 as the year for presenting more ambitious commitments by countries, this year 73 states undertook to be carbon neutral in 2050, including Spain. To achieve this, Spain has set the target of reducing one of every three tonnes of CO2 over the next ten years, and double the use of renewable energy sources by 2030.
  • More than 80 countries have already announced that they will present more ambitious contributions to combat climate change than the commitments under the Paris Agreement in 2020.

Although commitments were sealed, many believe that the results of COP25 are disappointing. Especially since the most expected target was not finally achieved; namely to step up the plans for reducing emissions. The delegations from close to 200 participating countries have not managed to obtain firm commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and were unable to tackle allowance trading effectively, to ensure the environmental integrity of the system.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was disappointed with the results because of their lack of ambition and has announced that climate action continues to be at the top of his agenda. His exact words were: "I am disappointed with the results of COP25. The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis. But we must not give up, and I will not give up".

The next events are in Bonn, between June 1 and June 11 2020, where a meeting will be held of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Scientific Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, and in Glasgow, between November 9 and November 20 2020, where COP26 will be held.