COP25 news and views: What’s happening in Madrid (part 2)

Several Intermon Oxfam's activists disguised as (L-R) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; French President Emmanuel Macron; Canadian Prime Ministe Justin Trudeau and US President Donald J. Trump take part in a protest action in the framework of the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, 10 December 2019. The summit runs in the Spanish capital until next 13 December. [EPA-EFE/FERNANDO VILLAR]

As UN climate negotiations enter their second and decisive week, EURACTIV gives you a glimpse into the goings on of the 25th climate conference in Madrid (COP25) and what is driving the conversation there. In this edition: ambition, carbon pricing, dunce cap, and getting mad for climate.

Business getting ambitious. 177 companies are now committed to set climate targets that align with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. This is more than a doubling in size since the first group of early movers was  announced at the UN Climate Action Summit in September. These companies are part of the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C – Our Only Future” coalition.

Collectively, these companies represent over 5.8 million employees, spanning 36 sectors and with headquarters in 36 countries. The companies have a combined market capitalisation of over $2.8 trillion, and represent annual direct emissions equivalent to the annual total CO2 emissions of France. They commit to setting science-based targets through the  Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), which independently assesses corporate emissions reduction targets in line with climate science.

Carbon markets get a nudge. Germany is among the sponsors of the World Bank’s Partnership for Market Implementation to support countries in the development and implementation of carbon pricing instruments. Other partners include Canada, Chile, Japan, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The Partnership will provide technical assistance to countries to design, pilot and implement carbon pricing and market instruments, the World Bank said. It will support the direct implementation of carbon pricing in at least 10 developing countries and help a further 20 countries get ready to do so, it added. The partnership is a response to increased demand for carbon pricing implementation support and knowledge exchange, the World Bank said.

Dunce cap for the US. Emissions in a majority of 57 countries ranked in the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) have fallen between 2012 and 2017 for the first time since the index was released in 2005, according to a report published on Tuesday (10 December) by NGOs Germanwatch, Climate Action Network International and New Climate Institute. The index aims to assess and compare the climate performance of 57 countries and the EU.

As customary, the first three places are empty, the NGOs arguing that no country is good enough to reach the podium. The top three countries, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco, ranked fourth, fifth and sixth. Compared to the 2018 edition, Sweden maintains its position, Morocco falls one place behind while Denmark makes a spectacular comeback from 15th to 5th place.

The other best-in-class are the United Kingdom, Lithuania, India, Finland, Chile, Norway, Luxembourg, Malta, Latvia, Switzerland and Ukraine. France is moving from 21st to 18th position, despite its decision at the end of 2018 to freeze a planned increase in the country’s carbon tax following the “Yellow Vests” protests. At the end of the day, France remains in the group of average performing countries.

Germany ranked 23rd, slightly below the EU average. The index’s authors said Berlin’s recently released climate package sends out “positive signals” but stressed that the proposed measures were not yet sufficient to put the country on track to a well-below-2 degrees Celsius pathway.

The three countries with the lowest ratings are Taipei, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

No climate target yet for France. While France supports raising Europe’s climate ambition from a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to a 55% cut, no target has yet been set by the government at national level, French Minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Elisabeth Borne said in Madrid. “We cannot define this objective until we know precisely what the European objective is and how the effort will be distributed between the sectors subject to the ETS and others (transport, housing, waste, agriculture)”.

Germany backs countries alarmed by lack of progress. In a bid to support countries most vulnerable to climate change, Germany, Sweden and Spain have called for more ambitious EU climate targets. “We’re sending a strong signal that we want more ambition,” German environment minister Svenja Schulze said during a press conference of the High Ambition Coalition of countries advocating more decisive action. Schulze said Germany is bound by EU climate efforts and therefore did not have an individual Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) it could raise. However, she pledged to do “everything I can” to achieve higher EU climate ambition. “The EU must lead by example,” she stressed.

The Coalition expressed its frustration with the slow progress of COP25 negotiations. “There are troubling signals that many countries would accept an outcome that would represent little more than business as usual,” said Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands who leads the Coalition. “If we take the science seriously, we have to be radical,” said Norwegian environment minister Ola Elvestuen. (Sören Amelang from Clean Energy Wire)

Mad for climate. The Marshall Islands launched the “#Mad4climate” campaign. Laurence Tubiana, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, attended the launch of the event. “We cannot postpone ambitious climate action,” she insisted. “We cannot wait until after 2020 to act, we have no more time! This COP, this week, should make it possible to carry a vision of collective ambition. Next year, no one should be able to escape his duty.” To date, nearly 70 States have committed to increase their NDC, accounting for 10% of global GHG emissions. This Wednesday is Ambition Day in Madrid, and announcements are expected from governments that are members of the carbon neutrality coalition and the high-level alliance for climate ambition chaired by Chile.

Fossil of the day for Australia, ray of the day to Climate Vulnerable Countries. As Australia battles extreme wildfires, green NGO Climate Action Network (CAN) pointed the finger at Canberra for its inaction in the fight against global warming. “What really jumps out is that while the Australian government is saying that it is taking meaningful action on climate change, it received a ZERO out of 100 on climate policy in the Climate Change Performance Index (see above). On any measure zero is an outright failure! It’s no wonder that Australia’s climate pollution has been going up and up under the current government,” it said. By contrast, the countries most vulnerable to climate change are getting up and leading from the front, enhancing their climate plans and championing human rights, CAN said. “Who better to celebrate Human Rights Day with than the people on the front line of climate change, those who are fighting the tough fight and yet strong enough to raise climate ambition and champion human rights,” it asked.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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