The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in Madrid, Spain for two weeks from December 2nd to December 13th. Below is a summarization of both this conference’s notable points as well as the perspectives of civil society.
Raising the voice of the youth
In both 2018 and 2019, extreme heat, heavy rain and floods have occurred across the globe. Record-setting heat waves in France and Pakistan, forest fires in the Amazon and Indonesia, even Japan last year saw great flooding in its western regions followed by severe damage by massive typhoons in October of this year. The threat posed by climate change is increasing every year and is now described as a “climate crisis.” Why do adults not act immediately in spite of this? In August 2018, Swedish high school student Greta Thunberg made her now-famous sit-in in protest of the Swedish parliament. Her actions have inspired youth around the world to develop a movement known as “Fridays For Future.”
Even in Japan, youth raised their voices and have thus far conducted four “climate march” events. In September and November, actions such as marches and standings took place throughout Japan in honor of Global Action Day.
The Most Important Objective is Increasing Targets and Action
In order to prevent the climate crisis any further, it is necessary to act now. Unfortunately, the time remaining for us to do so is very short.
Per the Paris Agreement, every country is to submit their respective targets, referred to as their National Determined Contributions (NDC). As of the end of November, 184 countries have submitted their targets to the UN Secretariat. However, even if the plans submitted by these countries are all successfully implemented as they were written, by the end of this century global temperatures are still projected to rise by more than 3 degrees Celsius. In other words, unless each country raises their NDC the 1.5 degree target simply cannot be achieved. It is therefore necessary for these countries to further raise their targets and re-submit their NDC.
Indeed, last year’s COP24 was held shortly after the IPCC published its 1.5 degrees Celsius report, increasing the awareness of the urgency of climate change and leading to the expectation that countries would strengthen their goals. However, COP24 we unable to see any drastic increases to targets submitted by developed countries.
In September of this year, even though the United Nations Climate Action Summit was held at the request of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the opportunity for countries to strengthen their countermeasures against climate change was raised, Japan likewise still has not increased its target. At COP25, there is thus a strong demand for developed countries like Japan to both raise their targets and take specific actions to fulfill them.
Because coal-fired power plants contribute the most to greenhouse gas emissions, a number of countries have already announced phase out of the coal-fired power generation. Accordingly, in order to achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree Celsius goal, the construction of new coal-fired power plants is not allowed and existing plants must be closed gradually. Japan, meanwhile, continues to promote coal-fired power generation both at home and abroad in spite of international condemnation of their behavior. With the perspective of strengthening actions, Japan is therefore required to either cancel or withdraw their promotion of both domestic and international coal-fired power plants.
Trends in Market Mechanisms
In Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, market mechanism rules were created with attention to developed countries. The international market mechanism with respect to climate change is a mechanism wherein emission credits with monetary value to be bought or sold may be obtained through successful reduction efforts. The creation of Article 6’s rules was one of the items left over from last year’s rule book discussion.
One of the issues in question, for example, is double-counting of emission reductions that occurs with countries that sold emission credits (countries that made reduction efforts) and countries that purchased emission credits (countries that offset their emissions through buying credits). There is an ongoing debate about the method and range of regulations in order to prevent this.
In addition, there are also countries that want to be able to use accumulated credits in 2020 and beyond. Accumulated credits are already worth several billion tons of emissions – permitting their usage in the future will allow for further large-scale emissions to continue.
Because the international market mechanism allows for emissions to continue to occur in some places despite emission reduction efforts in others, total emission reduction cannot be achieved.
There is also a scheme practiced called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), wherein money is provided in proportion to amounts of verified carbon sinks. While the aim of this scheme is forest conservation, there have been instances in which indigenous people’s land has subsequently been unjustly acquired.
Daily Increases in Loss and Damage
Another topic subject to increased attention is “loss and damage.” At COP19, the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) was established to deal with losses and damage caused by climate change – a particularly serious problem in developing countries.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, although there are financial mechanisms for mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (responding to climate change already taking place), there is no support mechanism or assistance provided for loss and damage. The WIM has to this point been limited to small-scale activities such as accumulating and sharing knowledge related to loss and damage and providing advice on human displacement due to climate change. It is thus necessary to discuss action and financial support for loss and damage.
Sudden Venue Changes
COP25 was originally scheduled to take place in Chile, South America. However, due to the ongoing protests against the Chilean government in the capital of Santiago, the decision to hold the meeting there was abruptly cancelled. However, because Spain immediately offered itselfas an alternative, Chile retained the Presidency while the venue was moved to Madrid.
A civil society summit had already been planned in Santiago. The sudden venue change one month before the summit was scheduled to take place forced undue costs and efforts upon the citizens planning to participate, including those in developing countries with economic constraints.
In addition, the year before last COP23 was held in Bonn, Germany with Fiji as President and last year COP24 was held in Poland. With next year’s conference scheduled to take place in Glasgow, the COP will have been held in Europe four years in a row. While its location has rotated around the European continent and the conference has ensured the participation of diverse regions of civil society, limiting its location to Europe where consumer prices are high has and will continue to put extra economic burdens on participants from developing countries.
FoE Group: Our Message
The FoE groups’ solution strategy to the climate crisis is a system change in which priority shifts away from the economic growth and interests of multinational corporations towards a sustainable, democratic society centered around nature and the people living in it.
Errant market-centered “solutions” that destroy the environment, such as the fossil fuel business, nuclear power plants, large-scale biomass power generation, and carbon offsets, as well as the introduction of insurance for loss and damage will not only fail to counteract the effects of climate change, but will also strengthen the power of large multinational corporations and lead to further expansion of global economic inequality.
In order to prevent further climate crises, energy autonomy should be returned to the people, economic activity should employ familiar, not distant resources, and community forest management and agro-ecology should be re-evaluated as means to prevent deforestation. It is also necessary to set climate change targets based on fair, shared responsibility and to support developing countries with public funds that are not affected by profits.
Restoring social equitability is itself a climate change countermeasure and enacting appropriate countermeasures to the climate crisis will lead to the restoration of an equitable society. Social equitability and climate crisis countermeasures are inseparable. During this COP25 period, the FoE Group will strongly appeal for its message of “Climate Justice for ALL” both inside and outside of the venue.