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UN climate change conference COP25 opens in Madrid

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-12-03 00:18
A view of the UN climate change conference (COP25) logo at the IFEMA conventions center, in Madrid, Spain, December 2, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

MADRID -- The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP25 officially opened here on Monday, where delegates are discussing measures to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The opening ceremony began with a warning from Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): "If we continue as we are doing, we run the risk of increasing the temperature of the planet and that will have an effect and terrible consequences for humanity and threaten our existence."

"We are not doing enough and we are not even getting close to what we need to do to control this situation," he said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the world would need "solidarity and flexibility to win the war against climate change."

Guterres explained that there is only one way to control the planet's temperature and that was the "limited use of fossil fuels. If we don't do that we will end up in a catastrophic situation," he warned, before praising the work of young climate activists.

"Young people are telling the leaders that they need to fight against the climate emergency," commented the UN chief.

The event is hosted by the Spanish capital after Chile, which presides over the event, had to step down as host due to social unrest.

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez welcomed delegates to Spain, saying "Madrid will be the world capital of the fight against the climate emergency ... But above all we want to be the capital of dialogue between nations united against a common enemy for all humanity."

He said that although the event was being held in Spain, it is being presided over by Chile. "This is Chile's COP: it is Chile that has organized the leadership and that has worked for an alliance against climate change and the success of this event will belong to Chile."

TIME FOR ACTION

The major task of the conference is to discuss Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the measures to promote voluntary international cooperation by paying a price on carbon, emission trading schemes and other market mechanisms.

The conference comes as global efforts to mitigate climate change are on the brink of failure.

"The global contributions to climate change fall far short," said Berthold Kuhn, an expert on sustainable development with the Free University of Berlin.

According to a UN Environment Program report published last week on the emissions gap, countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required.

The report says that emissions have gone up by 1.5 percent per year in the last decade. In 2018, emissions totaled 55 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is putting the Earth on course to experience a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, rather than 1.5-degree goal set in the Paris Agreement.

This critical situation has prompted the conference, which will last till Dec. 13, to choose "Time for Action" as its motto.

Kuhn believes that the market mechanisms should be well designed to stimulate investment in projects like reforestation and other climate-friendly economic activities. Therefore, COP25 is of great importance to implement Paris Agreement.

DEVELOPING NATIONS NEED HELP

The need to help developing nations combat climate change was highlighted by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

At a roundtable event between heads of state and government leaders, Sheikh Hasina called for finance to help developing nations adapt towards carbon neutrality, as not all of the countries in the world emit the same amount of greenhouse gasses.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado said the world was watching what happens in Madrid.

"We are going to be judged for our response to the climate crisis: what did we do in the face of the greatest challenge we are facing? Did we take measures or did we do nothing?" Alvarado said.

"Today we know that if we don't accept the transformation then 2030 will be the point of no return and our planet will be more hostile: How can I explain that to my six-year-old son?" Alvarado asked.

European Commission's new president, Ursula von der Leyen, said at the roundtable event that the Europeans are ready to work to halt climate change.

"If we work together, we will go faster and we will be as ambitious as possible in the COP negotiations," she said.

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