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OPINION: To tackle the climate crisis, COP25 needs to rebuild trust

by Mohamed Adow | @mohadow | Power Shift Africa
Friday, 29 November 2019 13:15 GMT

A banner of the 2019 U.N. Climate Change conference (COP25) is seen hanging at Gran Via street during Black Friday in Madrid, Spain, November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

It is vital that the Madrid meeting restores trust between nations and instils confidence in the multilateral process at this crucial time

 Mohamed Adow is the Director of Power Shift Africa, a climate and energy think tank based in Nairobi.

There may not have been a more chaotic and challenging start to a UN climate summit as the one about to get underway in Madrid next week.  Usually host countries have more than a year to prepare, but Spain stepped in less than a month ago to save the talks after Chile withdrew due to public protests caused unrest in the streets of Santiago. It remains unclear how hands-on Chile will be as summit President given domestic issues back home.

Despite the political difficulties climate change doesn’t stop. In fact the head of the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have risen to a record high.

As the final meeting before the Paris Agreement comes into force next year (when countries are expected to start implementing their commitments) and at the same time improve their current plans, it is vital that the Madrid meeting rebuilds trust between nations and instils confidence in the multilateral process at this crucial time.

With populists like Presidents Trump and Bolsonaro threatening climate progress, it’s vital that other nations step up their efforts.  The very fact Spain stepped in immediately to ensure these talks could take place shows the international appetite is there for them to be a success.

There are four areas where we need to see concrete outcomes in Madrid.

The first is what is known as ‘loss and damage’, how the world helps people suffering from climatic changes than cannot be adapted to. Since 2013 the issue of loss and damage has been discussed in these meetings and as it is part of the Paris Agreement, it’s vital the help that was promised to the most vulnerable people in the world, is delivered. Ultimately, it’s a matter of trust, that what gets agreed at these meetings will be honoured.

Secondly, and related to the first issue, we need to see adequate climate finance delivered by rich countries to those on the front line.  In 2009, rich countries agreed to deliver a paltry $100 billion a year by 2020.  This summit will need to show those poor countries that these lifesaving funds are ready to be accessed – and enhanced.  It is vital, to both help poor communities adapt to a changing climate they did not cause but also help them switch onto low carbon development pathways that will reduce their climate footprint and help in the global effort to reduce emissions.

Thirdly, we need governments to nail robust rules around carbon markets that avoids double counting, enables effective tracking and assessment of the impact of the carbon crediting system and allows an actual increase in countries ambition. Instead of increasing emissions through dodgy accounting and false solutions, carbon trading must reduce emissions and safeguard the environmental integrity of Paris Agreement .

And finally, we need Madrid to deliver a clear mandate for every country to enhance their national emissions reduction plan so as to get us on track to keeping global warming to 1.5C. Countries need to be able to trust that each is doing their fair share, so committing to regular, five-year review cycles where these efforts can be assessed and upgraded is important.

The challenge is great, the scientific warnings will only get worse the longer we don’t act, but the will is there if countries can be shown to trust each other. That process can take a positive leap forward in Madrid.