The Reality of the COP25

What did the United Nations do—and not do— about the climate crisis?

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The Reality of the COP25

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December 2019 saw the longest climate talk in history done by the United Nations, hosted under the Chilean government. 

Though it was originally planned in Santiago, due to protests, riots, and general disturbance in the region, it was moved to Madrid, the capital of Spain. The 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), nicknamed the COP25, was supposed to be a time for solutions and definitive action. However, the question remains: did it actually accomplish anything?

Hundreds of people, ranging from presidents and prime ministers to scientists studying how climate change affects our planet, attended the conference. Notable young people from all around the world were also present, such as Xiye Bastida, a 17-year old indigenous activist from Mexico, 22-year old Ugandan Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, and Greta Thunberg herself, the 16-year old Swedish sensation who began the school strike movement and was recently appointed Person of the Year by Time.

It is a common thought that social justice and climate justice have no relation, that they do not go together, but the truth is quite the opposite, and was a topic of conversation at the COP25. Indigenous peoples, who lived from the earth sustainably for thousands of years before European colonization, will be deeply affected by climate change, and though they have wisdom to share about the environment, their voices are often silenced. People in developing countries will also face the harsh effects before first-world countries like Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., even if wealthy countries release more greenhouse gases than poor ones.

I am the voice of dying children, displaced women, and people suffering at the hands of the climate crisis created by rich countries.”

— Hilda Flavia Nakabuye

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 by 196 countries, had an aim to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” (United Nations, 2015). The conferences held by the UN in the following years were supposed to reflect that agreement and the attitude of banding together to battle climate change, but many say that 2019’s discussion failed to meet these expectations.

So, what actually occurred at the COP25? First of all, the conference, which was only supposed to last 12 days, was extended another two. Even with that additional 48 hours, barely any progress was made. Decisions for the workings of a global carbon market, outlined in the Paris Agreement, were instead pushed to the COP26, which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland. Another issue was the semantics. Alternatively to improving and enhancing, countries were “invited” to “communicate” their climate plans for 2020. The discussion was a back-and-forth of who to shoulder the blame, who needed to act first, and none of the action and agreements that the world currently needs.

The reality of the COP25 is that governments continue to be passive on environmental issues. The reality of the COP25 is that the voices of activists continue to be hushed. The reality of the COP25 is that we can not afford to stay quiet, to stay comfortable, to stay unresisting in the face of one of the biggest— if not the biggest— catastrophe humanity has ever faced.


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