The 25th United Nations conference on climate change (COP25) opens in Madrid on Monday 2 December, where world governments and international civil society will gather for two weeks of intensive negotiations. 

Activists at UN Climate Conference in Katowice in 2018.

For us in Scotland this COP takes place in the context of a revitalised climate movement, with mass mobilisations led by the youth climate strikers and Extinction Rebellion, and momentum for transformative action to the climate crisis growing. With next years’ climate talks taking place in Glasgow, the conference in Madrid kicks off a year of building momentum towards COP26 and the opportunity to grow the climate justice movement here in Scotland, and around the world. 

In Madrid, we will be working with our allies in the international climate justice movement to use the COP to shine a spotlight on the shared root causes of a host of inter-related crises including the climate and biodiversity emergency, inequality, unemployment, and poverty. 

Last minute conference switch to Spain from Chile

COP25 was supposed to be taking place in Santiago, but was moved to Madrid at very short notice by the Chilean Presidency due to the civil unrest in Chile, where tens of thousands are on the streets protesting entrenched and widening inequality. It’s clear that tackling the climate crisis also means taking a systemic approach to tackling these interlinked crises – between and within nations.

We utterly condemn the Chilean Government’s brutal repression of the protests and stand in solidarity with the Chilean people, who, after many months of preparation are going ahead with the Peoples’ Summit in Santiago during the COP. A second Peoples’ Summit will be taking place in Madrid, linking up with the summit in Santiago. 

Here in Scotland, we are working with the Chilean community in Glasgow and the Scottish Trades Union Congress to keep the focus on Santiago as well as Madrid, with an event on 1 December called Putting people & planet first, from Chile to Glasgow. There will also be events taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow timed to coincide with the big marches in Madrid, Santiago and around the world on Friday 6 December. 

Of course the relocation of COP25 to Madrid also creates additional barriers to participation in the UN process for people from the global south, who face very real challenges with accessing visas amongst other things. With COP26 taking place in Glasgow in 2020, four in a row of these crucial conferences will take place in the global north, to the risk of significant exclusion of voices of those most impacted by the climate crisis.

We will be working with partners and allies as part of a big COP26 Coalition to enable the participation of global south civil society at the Glasgow COP, and ensure that the voices of those most impacted are at the forefront of our joint activities. 

Key climate fights

In terms of the negotiations themselves, what’s on the table at COP25 and the outcomes of the next fortnight of talks will of course pave the way for negotiations in Glasgow. 

The key issues on the agenda at COP25 include:

  • Climate Ambition: the Paris Agreement kicks in next year, yet countries pledges to reduce their emissions currently fall far short of the 1.5oC or even the 2oC target that the world’s nations signed up to in 2015. COP25 will see pressure on big polluters – including the EU and the US – to do their fair share and increase their climate targets.
  • Climate Finance: ten years ago at the Copenhagen climate talks rich countries pledged to deliver $100 billion a year in climate finance to the global south by 2020. Months away from this deadline and only a fraction of that finance – which is essential to enabling developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change and mitigate their own emissions – is on the table. COP25 will see global south countries demanding that global north countries deliver on their commitments to climate finance.
  • Loss and Damage: a review of the effectiveness of the Warsaw Implementation Mechanism on the critical issue of Loss and Damage will take place. The Loss and Damage mechanism aims to address the issue of what happens in terms of compensation when it is no longer possible to adapt to the impacts of climate change, a reality that horrifyingly many nations and communities are already beginning to face.
  • Carbon Markets: importantly negotiations in Madrid will also focus on agreeing rules for carbon markets – the final part of the Paris Agreement Rule Book. Carbon markets are a highly contentious issue due to the human rights impacts of carbon offsetting schemes, the fact that they fail to deliver real emissions reductions, and instead strengthen the power of big, unaccountable corporations. 

With Friends of the Earth International, our climate justice allies and Indigenous groups who are leading the fight against carbon markets, we will be taking part in a day of action against carbon markets at the COP, on 5 December. We will also be organising a side event on false solutions to the climate crisis, and taking part in many other events, protests and activities over the course of the fortnight. 


Join the Climate Talks Webinar

Mary will take part in a special online webinar from the climate talks on Tuesday 10 December from 6.30-8pm. She’ll be discussing how the negotiations are going, the last minute switch from Chile and looking ahead to Glasgow in 2020. Join the webinar’s Facebook event:

To keep abreast of what’s going on at COP25 follow me @mmachch, @FoEScot and @FoEInt, and keep an eye on the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition’s blog.

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Mary Church

Mary Church is Head of Campaigns at FoES.

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