COP25: It’s time to act

The General Secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, opening the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), gave the starkest warning yet heard on the matter: “We are rapidly approaching the point of no return. We have to choose between the path of surrender—letting the climate emergency jeopardize everyone on this planet—or the path of hope, sustainable solutions and successful climate action. […] The findings of World Meteorological Organization’s latest report are clear: extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more deadly. Our climate action efforts so far have been inadequate. We need greater ambition from everyone now.”

These strong words come in the wake of a call to action by Ursula Von der Leyen, who has just become President of the European Commission: “Our goal is to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050. If we want to achieve that goal, we have to act now, we have to implement our policies now.” The Commission’s Directorate-Generals are already working on the European Green Deal, a comprehensive plan on how to implement a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 50% by the year 2030, and to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

This alarming change in tone is even more worrying because together with these exhortations to act immediately, with even more ambitious objectives to be achieved, there is a bleak inertia with regards to the actual implementation of policies capable of making a difference.

The desire of the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and the likelihood that Brazil will not meet the targets, seem to render this goals of this COP25 unrealistic, given that the former country is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China), and the latter safeguards one of the most delicate and critical ecosystems in the world: the Amazon rainforest. On the other hand, the 68 countries who have committed to finding solutions to global heating are responsible for just 8% of total emissions.

International institutions and scientists make ever more pressing appeals, warning of ever more devastating future scenarios, while populations around the world are already feelings the daily effects of more destructive climate events, yet the political world seems indecisive and stuttering, capable of grand speeches but incapable of effective change, impeded by conflicting economic interests.

The intention of the European Commission to propose the first European ‘Climate Law’ enshrining the target for 2050, which is certainly a positive development, raises the question of how many Member States will be willing and able to implement the law. The time it takes for institutions to turn policy into reality seem tragically long compared to the speed with which the consequences of the climate crisis are making themselves felt.

We expect concrete measures from COP25 that force governments to act and commit to radical action beyond the well-meaning declarations of intent. Because up until now, the history of these international climate summits is a history of enormous deficits between good will and real-world consequences.

The Kyoto Protocol, agreed in Japan in 1997, set targets for 37 countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The US pulled out in 2001 because they were unhappy that developed countries had legally binding targets, while less developed nations didn’t. The Paris Agreement went further than any other international climate change deal. Since then, the US has started to withdraw from the agreement, as President Trump says it’s unfair on the US economy.

A report from the UN Environment Programme in 2017 says the Paris Agreement only covers a third of the emission reductions needed and recommends putting more ambitious targets in place in 2020.

We hope that COP25 can transform the aforementioned “point of no return” into a real, concrete and immediate turning point.

Slow Food supports all policies that aim to mitigate the climate crisis in all 160 countries in which its network of activists is present. Not acting now means condemning future generations to catastrophic difficulties, putting at risk the survival of the human race itself. Not acting now means violating human rights: all seated today at COP25 should have this in mind and feel the weight of this responsibility.

Paola Nano – p.nano@slowfood.it

Sources: Corriere della Sera 3/12/2019, BBC News

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