Frustration at COP25

Sue Willsher from Tearfund in the UK wraps up our reports from COP25.

Frustration rises as COP25 talks fail again to agree important issues. 

As Greta Thunberg reminded us during COP25 here in Madrid ‘we need both outrage and optimism – in fine balance’. Sadly, these climate talks have brought more outrage and frustration, although we still hold out for a miracle, and through prayer, a slice of optimism. 

We needed these climate talks to be a success, but instead of unity, ambition and commitment to make every effort to limit average temperature rise to 1.5C, we’ve seen disagreements, postponing and loopholes. On the streets, the science and society are in agreement, while the governments negotiating during COP25 have failed to deliver the actions needed. 

Young climate activists, indigenous groups, representatives on the receiving end of climate impacts were all here to urge world leaders to respond with urgency and decisive action. They were looking for the talks to show how world leaders are committed to protecting people, and the rest of creation too. Sadly, some key items could not be agreed:

  • Lack of ambition – the hope was for all countries to either submit or commit to a clear timeframe to deliver improved plans to reduce emissions. Instead, current pledges still have us on course for a 3C or more future. To limit the worst impacts of climate change we need significantly higher ambition in 2020. Some countries have made net zero emissions commitments, who now need to deliver near-term policies to deliver deep emissions cuts. 
  • No compensation for countries most affected by climate change – countries most vulnerable to the severe impacts of climate change, who have done the least to cause it, have been calling for new and additional finance to address the ‘loss and damage’ experienced when a climate disaster strikes. Disappointingly, this was not agreed. This is so critical given the rising and devastating impacts of the climate crisis. For example, the cost of Hurricane Dorian’s impact on the Bahamas is $3.4bn, more than a quarter of the country’s GDP.
  • No new rules for carbon markets – This made limited progress due to disagreements on how to ensure environmental integrity in the carbon market through avoiding double counting, keeping outdated efforts out of the Paris Agreement and implementing social and environmental safeguards. No rules are better than weak rules, which now leaves even more to be agreed ahead of Glasgow, the host next year.   

To avoid the worst damage to our creation,  emissions must decrease as fast as conceivably possible in rich countries including a complete phase-out of fossil energy. Action needs to start now, towards steep reductions in wealthy and high-polluting countries.

Christians must rise up and join the wider movement

Now more than ever we need to see Christians vocal, keeping up the pressure on their national governments and joining with others in calling for more ambition to tackle climate change. As our biblical mandate of caring for creation necessitates, we can not stand by as so much irreversible damage is done. 

A number of Renew Our World representatives were present in Madrid, working hard to meet as many government delegations as possible. In total they were able to make their plea to 26 government officials for more action, on behalf of many church leaders across Latin America. However, as one Renew Our World member expressed; ‘there was much disappointment in government action. I look to the church and civil society to work together to help bring about the huge changes we need.’ 

Renew Our World continues to grow at a rapid rate as a movement of Christians around the world, coming alongside millions of others from all faiths and none who are building pressure on world leaders and will continue to do so. We need to keep the pressure on our politicians and demand a fair and cleaner future. 

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