Updates from COP25: Global nations meet to discuss climate emergency

Posted in: Environment

Posted on: 02.12.2019

The UN holds a conference each year to discuss how to tackle the climate crisis. This high-level meeting, called Conference of the Parties, or COP, is attended by almost all nations and is designed to accelerate climate action. 

The latest round of talks, COP25, has kicked off in Madrid and will continue until 13th December. Good Energy will be updating this blog throughout the two weeks to deliver key moments and announcements from the event.


13th December

  • This year’s talks close with mixed results. The US, Australia and Brazil were accused of seeking to block progress towards creating a new global carbon market. A key part of the Paris Agreement, a new market is a key way of ensuring emissions are reduced effectively across all nations. The UN’s Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said he was “disappointed with the results of COP25”, but “more than determined than ever” to ensure all countries commit to limit global heating.

  • 31 nations, including a mix of Pacific islands and major European economies, committed to new principles for ‘high ambition’ in carbon markets. The announcement sets the scene for next year’s talks, to be held in Glasgow, when the UK will have to work hard to bridge the gap between words and action.

12th December

  • Just two days remain of this year’s climate negotiations. Closing speeches and talks are being made ahead of an agreement to be made on Friday. Things heated up late on Wednesday when 200 campaigners staged a protest inside the conference, leading them to be barred from the talks. The leader of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, was among those refused re-entry to the talks.
  • An attempt to gain bolder commitments from major emitters failed during the early hours of Thursday morning. Some diplomats blamed China, India, Saudi Arabia and Brazil for refusing to raise their current pledges under the Paris Agreement. Away from the scenes in Madrid, EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to try and set a new carbon neutrality for the bloc by 2050.

11th December

  • Greta Thunberg spoke at the conference on behalf of young people, telling the audience that “nothing has changed” in the year since she started a global movement for stronger climate action. She added: "The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when, in fact, almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR”.
  • 177 global companies have pledged to set ambitious emissions targets to help the world limit temperatures to within 1.5 degrees Celsius. The target, to be achieved by no later than 2050, was set by corporates from 36 different countries, representing annual emissions equivalent to that of France.

10th December

  • The first phase of talks end with many unresolved issues; China pushed for weakening the rules behind how nations report their carbon emissions, among other issues. The meeting closed in the early hours without a decision against the hopes of the EU, US, Japanese, and other delegates.

  • The high-level part of the talks begin; COP25 President, Carolina Schmidt, urges stronger action from nations: “The vulnerable are the most hard hit. We want climate action to be fair. This conference must change the course of action". 631 institutional investors have similarly urged governments to phase-out coal plants; end fossil fuel subsidies, and put a price on carbon.

  • The UK hosted a special event ahead of COP26 which will be held in Glasgow, a first for the annual talks. COP26 President, Claire O’Neill, discusses the long-term strategies to reach net-zero emissions; the UK was the first country to legislate for net-zero earlier this year.

9th December

  • The second week of COP kicks off with updates on climate action taken by Chile, Ghana, India, and Malaysia. As negotiations start to ramp-up, data experts are working on ways to track progress among regions, cities, and investors. The ‘high-level’ segment of the talks will soon start as government ministers join the conference.

  • A new study has found that 1.9 billion people, or one-quarter of the world’s population, are at risk of water supply problems. Access to clean water from glaciers and lakes is under threat from increased global temperatures, while demand continues to grow; “climate change threatens the entire mountain ecosystem,” the report states.

7th December

  • Good Energy’s CEO, Juliet Davenport, spoke at an event on removing barriers to climate action. She spoke about the need for systemic change in the low-carbon sector where a “real infrastructure shift" helps to create trust in new technologies, such as electric vehicles, which are cheaper to run than the internal combustion engine.

6th December

5th December

  • Youth Day at COP25. The UN’s climate chief, Patricia Espinosa, said that “youth have played a fantastic role throughout this year to raise awareness for the need for urgent climate action. Each individual voice counts in making this possible”. 
  • Two reports were released by the UN’s climate programme on action and the ways to limit global temperatures to well below 2C. This was discussed at a special event titled “What We Are Doing and What We Need to Do?”. The UN is calling for higher levels of climate financing, stronger reporting of results, and renewed action after 2020. 
  • This year’s event will be as sustainable as possible. Organisers have pledged to make COP25 “entirely climate neutral” with unavoidable emissions being offset through projects to benefit local communities in impoverished areas. Waste, water and energy at the event are also being reduced and avoided as much as possible. Sustainable transport, via train travel, is also being offered to participants at discounted rates.

4th December

  • Global carbon emissions were confirmed to have increased by 0.6% in 2019 from the same time last year. The mixed results, released by the Global Carbon Project, show the rise is due to China. The rest of the world, in particular the US and Europe saw drops in carbon emissions due to the closure of carbon intensive coal power plants.
  • Who cares about COP? Some countries are taking the climate talks more seriously than others. Analysis from the Carbon Brief website shows that 4,000 more delegates are attending this year than last year in Poland. However, the major global emitters, such as the US, China, and European Union were not in the top 10 of countries sending representatives.

3rd December

  • Fresh data has found that average global temperatures reached 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in 2019. This is approaching the safe 1.5C limit set by the Paris climate agreement. The World Meteorological Organization released the report showing the past decade has been “exceptionally hot” and temperatures for both the past five and ten years “are almost certain to be the highest on record”. 
  • Increased warming has grown alongside the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. The WMO points out that CO2 reached a record 407 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. The impacts are being felt in the decline of sea ice, ocean acidification, and more frequent extreme weather events. 
  • Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Portugal after crossing the Atlantic by boat in time for the conference. Organisers are hoping Greta’s presence will lead to stronger climate commitments from all nations. Speaking to reporters at the dock in Lisbon, she said, "people are underestimating the force of angry kids.”

2nd December 

  • As the summit starts, UN chief Antonio Guterres tells reporters that "the point of no return is no longer over the horizon, it is in sight and hurtling towards us”. He goes on to contrast the leadership shown by young people with the lack of action shown by governments, but that “signals of hope are multiplying. Good Energy has long championed the youth climate strike movement. 
  • Pacific Islands are at the frontline of the climate crisis and rising sea levels. President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands tells of her nation’s “fight to the death” as extreme weather becomes commonplace. Unusually high waves, rising to five metres, hit the island last week alone. 
  • An immersive art installation at the conference is recreating the effects of air pollution, and highlighting another impact of climate change. Burning fossil fuels is creating poisonous air for millions of people around the world. The Pollution Pods use safe fog machines to offer an insight into their experiences.

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