By Hillarie Cania
"Tick Tock, Tick Tock: don’t call it change, call it climate emergency" read one of the billboards just outside the entrance of the COP25 venue in Madrid; a lasting and unmistakable message and a clear call to action.
The international community had with COP25 an opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis head-on. Unfortunately, it fell short of delivering on this. But at floor-level, COP25 was abuzz with a diversity of energetic, dedicated and knowledgeable state and non-state actors proffering sustainable solutions and inspiring ideas, which certainly justifies that we maintain at least some optimism for the future.
Here are some of the key takeaways and concepts that whirled around the corridors of COP25 and offer some further optimism and insight to those of us working within climate resilience, climate adaptation and climate mitigation on a daily basis:
- Nature-based solutions (NBS): Very many of the side events were either focused on or touching upon the importance of NBS as a key component of the climate solution. With respect to NBS also arose discussions on the necessity to shift toward co-creation and co-building of societies and cities.
- Resilience: Several interactive sessions were held which focused on an urgent need for really taking a systematic approach to tackle climate change. Importantly, it is also necessary to consider both the possible trade-offs and co-benefits of resilience measures and to work to maximise the latter while minimising the former, in moving along sustainable development pathways.
- Sustainability: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were of course a major red line through the various discussions. The SDG Pavilion was buzzing with activity and good discussions throughout the conference. Circular economy was a similar hot topic item of many of the discussions at the conference.
- Just transition and financing: This was a key phrase/topic both inside and outside of the negotiating rooms. A just transition requires parties to prioritise social equity, human rights and financing for loss & damage, among other things. The major multilateral development banks (MDBs) are also working to align with the Paris Agreement, while also some countries have committed to increased financing to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
- Capacity building and technology transfer: There was good emphasis and some progress in advancing the platform for increased emphasis on capacity building and technology transfer to developing countries - particularly to support in the acceleration of their transition to a green economy.
- Gender equality: one of the key successes of COP25 was a decision on a new 5-year gender action plan (GAP), intended to “support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates in the UNFCCC process”.
- "People Power, Climate Justice": this was the message echoed by many non-state parties and constituencies in their final closing remarks of COP25.
It is important to also give a nod to those state actors who did in fact step-up to the challenge and who have taken ambitious steps forward in raising ambition. In particular, this includes the European Union who on the 11th December 2019 unveiled the European Green Deal which aims at a carbon neutral EU block by 2050.
Denmark is a further example having set a truly ambitious goal of reducing carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 – basing such target not on what is possible or financially feasible for that matter, but on what is necessary, and then as stated by the Danish Climate Minister “our job is to make the necessary possible.”
Hopefully this level of ambitious goal-setting will percolate outward and all of the world’s leaders will join in this global call to action and will arrive in Glasgow for COP26 next year ready to act and to increase ambition levels to such level which is required to be aligned with the Paris Agreement.
Until then, all of us must do what we can to be part of the solution (and less part of the problem), to make change happen and to raise all our voices and as many billboards as necessary in order to make sure that our politicians get the message and take the necessary steps to act and act effectively in the face of climate emergency.
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