Prospects for vulnerable communities in ‘developing’ countries look dire, as wealthy countries refuse to pay up for the climate damage they have caused and Northern governments and corporations push forward carbon trading, says Friends of the Earth Scotland as the UN climate talks in Madrid draw to a deeply disappointing close. The brutal repression of peoples’ demands in Chile has been echoed by the aggressive silencing of civil society voices in a climate summit that has been out of touch with reality.

With the carbon ‘budget’ for 1.5 degrees nearly exhausted, the chances of keeping the planet at a liveable temperature for all are on a knife edge. But still, the rich countries that created the climate crisis in the first place, including Scotland, the UK and the EU are using loopholes to evade emissions cuts rather than keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

The carbon markets agreement that could be pushed through at COP25 will not reduce emissions. It may even increase them, by allowing a flood of credits in from previous trading schemes and the double counting of reductions. Furthermore, carbon trading violates human rights, especially impacting Indigenous Peoples and global South communities whose lands and livelihoods are grabbed for offsets.

Sara Shaw, Climate Justice and Energy Programme Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International, said:

“Just as we thought the slow pace and weak ambition shown at the climate talks couldn’t get worse, along comes COP25. Here, we have witnessed the gutting of the already weak Paris Agreement, with the advance of dodgy carbon trading that will only exacerbate the climate crisis and harm Southern communities. And we have seen a refusal by developed countries to pay up for loss and damage finance, while they try to introduce language that would remove their liability for the impacts their emissions have caused.

“We are furious that while so many are already suffering the impacts of climate change, corporations and rich country governments are working to destroy any hope of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. And when we stood up in peaceful protest at COP25, we were aggressively suppressed.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns Mary Church, said:

“COP25 should have delivered urgent support, including finance, for Southern countries already suffering loss and damage from climate breakdown. Instead, the response of Northern countries and elites everywhere, including in the UK, is to sacrifice the global majority: the lives and livelihoods of the many to pay for the lifestyles of the few.”

Next year, COP26 takes place in Glasgow, under the Presidency of the UK Government. Church continued:

“Global south and Indigenous Peoples’ participation in the UN climate talks is essential for climate just outcomes. The COP in Glasgow will be the fourth in a row to take place in the global North, putting additional barriers in the way of global South participation. In light of yesterday’s election results we anticipate the continuation of the racist ‘hostile environment’ UK border controls. The UN must put pressure on the new UK government to ensure the voices of those most affected by the climate crisis are not silenced or excluded at COP26.”

The UK is one of the top 10 countries in the world in terms of its oil and gas expansion plans. Church continued:

“Next year’s climate talks will shine a spotlight on the UK’s unacceptable oil and gas expansion plans, and the Scottish Government’s support for them, which is completely incompatible with any claims of climate leadership. We are well overdue paying our carbon debt. We call on the Scottish and UK Governments to put an end date on North Sea oil and gas, and plan for a rapid and just transition of the workforce and communities.

COP26 is expected to see huge mobilisations of civil society, both in the year ahead of the talks, and during the UN conference. Church said:

“The climate justice movement in the UK is stronger than ever, and the COP in Glasgow will serve as a rallying cry for all who care about our planet and the fate of peoples all over the world. The eyes of the world will be on us. It is not too late to act.”

Notes for editors

Read more about why carbon markets have the potential to fatally undermine the Paris Agreement in our blog (https://foe.scot/we-cant-buy-our-way-out-of-the-climate-crisis/) and FoEI’s briefing (https://www.foei.org/resources/carbon-markets-briefing-cop25). Opposition to carbon markets is broad: 175 organisations have signed on to a petition opposing carbon markets. (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WkmMbHtfdWWpP3L-ymgSB4xNdTuB0rPqDq5zilTRAy0/edit)

The big polluters who are really set to gain from market mechanisms, like Shell, Chevron and BP, have been out in force at COP25. A recent report (https://www.ciel.org/news/oil-gas-and-the-climate-an-analysis-of-oil-and-gas-industry-plans-for-expansion-and-compatibility-with-global-emission-limits/) suggests that over the coming five years, the oil and gas sector intends to invest USD 1.4 trillion developing new oil and gas extraction, building on research (https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/worlds-governments-plan-produce-120-more-fossil-fuels-2030-can-be) showing that national governments plan to extract 120% more oil, gas and coal in 2030 than is possible if we are to keep temperature rise below 1.5°C. Carbon markets will allow big polluters to wash themselves green while continuing business as usual for decades to come, sacrificing vulnerable communities on the way.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change recognises that rich countries who have a historical responsibility for causing the climate crisis should bear the greatest burden for addressing it. A civil society report on Climate Fair Shares (webpage, 2019) calculates what individual countries must do in terms of cutting emissions and providing finance https://www.foei.org/climate-fair-shares

Research published in May 2019 by FoES, Oil Change International and Platform shows how the UK Government’s oil and gas expansion plans are incompatible with the Paris Agreement and makes the case for a rapid and just transition for the North Sea industry. Read Sea Change: Climate Emergency, Jobs and Managing the Phase out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction here (https://foe.scot/seachange-report-protect-climate-create-jobs/).

Friends of the Earth Scotland, with the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, and representatives of global south civil society and Indigenous Peoples met with the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and the leader of Glasgow City Council at COP25 to ask for support in ensuring strong participation at COP26.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is:

* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation

* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland

* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.