We are the first generation to suffer from the effects of climate change and the last one that can do something about it.’ This bold (and sadly true) statement came from Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, when he was about to host the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP25. Unfortunately, he is a host no more. After one month of civil unrest in Santiago, Piñera backtracked from his environmental pledge. ‘When a father has problems, he must always put his family before everything else,’ said the billionaire president-under-siege.
A mere month away from the 2 December starting line, the UNFCC secretariat (which has been organising these summits for 25 years) was left scrambling to find a solution. Now, following a ‘generous offer of support’ from Spain’s government, COP25 will instead be held in Madrid over the same dates (2-13 December).
At COP25, European countries were expected to raise their ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, imitated by several smaller economies but certainly not by the US (because of the anti-science Trump administration) or China (because of the White House’s position). The 2015 Paris Agreement, the only, albeit half-baked, success in climate diplomacy’s history, relies heavily on a growing surge of emission-cutting commitments in order to dodge the dreaded 1.5°C of planetary warming. Under present circumstances, it is due to fail.
The Truth Behind the Climate Pledges, a study published in November by a team of scientists including Sir Robert Watson, a former IPCC Chair, says it all. ‘Almost 75 per cent of the Paris Agreement pledges are insufficient to slow climate change,’ the paper remarks. Only 35 countries (28 of them being in Europe) will reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030. In China, India and the US they are due to rise. As if that wasn’t enough, almost 70 per cent of emission cuts in poorer countries rely for their implementation on improbable funding from wealthy nations.
COP25, now hastily rearranged for some 20,000 delegates, will hardly mark history. For the last generation that can prevent a climate disaster, it is too little indeed. And, one wonders, who is caring for the human family?