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Madrid Steps In as EU Targets COP25

With climate change at the forefront of the global agenda, over 25,000 politicians, lobbyists and influencers will make their way to Madrid for the UN’s summit next month

The United Nations Global Climate Change conference will take place between December 2nd – 13th  at the IFEMA conference facility in Spain’s capital city. Last month, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera withdrew as the host of the event due to serious and ongoing civil unrest in his country. A day after Piñera’s announcement, Spain’s acting President Pedro Sanchez offered up the city of Madrid to accommodate the summit.

Madrid’s Mayor, Jose Luis Martinez, has assured delegates that his city has the experience, capacity and imagination to host COP25, which is set to attract more than 25,000 delegates and will cost an estimated 100 million euros to organise. The ongoing climate change crisis is a preeminent topic across the globe, and a conference of this size is certain to boost Spain’s profile.

At a national level, hosting the UN’s event gives Sanchez the opportunity to burnish his credentials, after recently sealing a coalition deal to form a new government following Spain’s fourth general election in as many years. This offer could also be a chance at redemption for Martinez, who became the subject of international scrutiny earlier this year after he attempted to suspend Madrid’s low-emissions zone in the city centre.

On a larger scale, the UN’s Global Climate Change conference represents a significant opportunity for the EU to position itself in the centre of the climate change debate.

Germany’s Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, believes the European Union must do more in relation to climate change strategy and emissions targets, while German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called on the European Union to continue playing a central role in addressing the climate crisis. “Europe must play a leading role in climate ambitions. As major emitters, we must send the right signals”, Maas said, adding that “in times of national unilateralism, the international community cannot rely on the COP process alone”.

Key Points of the Summit

Minister Schulze hopes that this year’s COP25 will pave the way to an agreement regarding an international credit system for carbon emission certificates and will close off many of the existing current loopholes under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. One such loophole can be found in Article 6 of this agreement, which allows states to finance environmental measures in other countries and use those carbon savings to offset against their national carbon outputs.

Meanwhile, COP25’s former host, Chile, is considered a leader in oceanic protection and aims to position global warming’s impact on the ocean as a central topic for the conference. The subject will be of high priority on the agenda despite not having been so in the past, and rides on the heels of a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that speaks to the significant and irreversible changes the earth’s oceans are experiencing in response to climate change.

“COP summits have so far been focused on discussing ways for countries to reduce their emissions, never considering the role of the oceans”, said Oceana Chile’s Executive Director, Liesbeth van der Meer. “Now, for the first time, COP25 will put the issue high on the agenda so countries can adopt measures to protect the oceans.”

Another point of discussion will be the Warsaw Mechanism, which was designed to provide financial and technical assistance to regions severely affected by climate change. Currently, the Green Climate Fund, aimed at financing this assistance, sits at approximately 6 billion euros. There is hope that this number will increase to 100 billion euros when the Paris Agreement comes into effect in 2020, with COP25 providing the opportunity needed to obtain guarantees of increased funding from nations across the globe.


17-year-old Greta Thunberg has helped bring light to the climate change crisis, and her presence at COP25 in Madrid is expected to enhance public relations and media attention. Copyright: Per Grunditz / Shuttershock.com

Greta Thunberg Sets Sail

The climate crisis is not just about policies, but also personalities. Sceptics such as United States President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are not expected to attend the conference, but their administrations will offer significant presence in Madrid. Meanwhile Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager who gained international traction and momentum after catapulting this issue to centre stage with her school climate strike, will be in attendance. Her presence at the summit is set to energise public relations and media surrounding the summit.

The 17-year-old is currently on a gap year and is travelling around the globe to speak on the climate crisis. Thunberg refuses to fly, and made her way to the UN Climate Change summit by solar-powered yacht back in September. After travelling throughout North America over the last few months, she had planned to make the journey to the COP25 conference in Chile by land. The rapid relocation of the event left Thunberg stranded in California. After a call for help to get her back to Europe, assistance arrived in the form of La Vagabonde, a solar and hydro-powered Catamaran piloted by Australian couple Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu. Crossing the Atlantic in winter is no easy feat, and it is anticipated that the voyage will take between two to four weeks, depending on weather conditions.

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Ruairi Kavanagh

Ruairi is an Irish writer, editor and author with 25 years of experience across national and specialist media. He specialises in reporting on matters relating to education, development,emergency services, international affairs, defence and security with particular interest in European affairs, the Balkan region, the Middle East and Africa.

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