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COP25 blog – 2 December 2019

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3 December, 2019The 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP25, opened today, Monday December 2 in Madrid, Spain. IndustriALL sustainability director Brian Kohler shares his insights.

It is difficult to get a feel for the mood of a conference such as this on the first day.

The usual formalities were observed, along with solemn statements about the urgency of what is increasingly being referred to as a climate crisis, or climate emergency, rather than simply climate change. The youth movement, led by Greta Thunberg, has had an impact. No-one who has paid any attention to the science doubts that the world indeed faces a crisis.

This COP was supposed to be held in Santiago Chile, until at the last minute President Piñera decided that the unrest in Santiago meant he could no longer guarantee the safety of delegates, as if the Chilean demonstrators were violent and not the police who already killed 24 people and hurt over 2,200. The situation in Chile that led to this shift should not be ignored – political instability is a symptom of the inequality and unrest generally being felt around the world, which is itself made worse by climate change and certainly will complicate any efforts to deal with the climate crisis. Spain stepped in, and the COP is being held on its originally-scheduled dates. This was a remarkable feat, given the short length of time available to Spain to organize such a massive event, and they should receive kudos for doing so.

The need for a Just Transition was mentioned in the remarks of Carolina Schmidt of Chile, but much of the first day was taken up with procedural issues.

The unresolved question of “cooperative measures”, Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, will be a fairly big topic. Article 6 speaks to the use of voluntary cooperation and implies carbon emissions trading. Obviously, for a global emissions trading scheme to work, the rules must be clear and full transparency must be observed.

Trade union delegates started to arrive, but due to restrictions on registration time at the COP, more of us will be on hand tomorrow.

It is interesting to see how the language of Just Transition is now being incorporated even in the public relations of Parties to the COP, as you can see in the attached photo. This is both a compliment, and a challenge. Obviously I am pleased that Just Transition has become part of the mainstream discussion at these conference – it is the result of many years of work by the labour movement. However, the danger is that the phrase may be co-opted and re-defined by others according to their priorities. We must be vigilant to keep the message of Just Transition clear.