What happened during COP25?

Author name: Miriam Frank 20.01.2020

2019 was a very significant year for me and for many other environmental activists, a year where we felt that the world was waking up, a year in which we were moved to see millions of citizens and civilians around the world taking to the streets to demand climate justice and a call to action.

Photography: Miriam Frank

The worldwide climate conference, COP25, that ended last month, however, failed to make the courageous decisions needed to address the issues and to move forward toward solving the climate crisis.

I attended the UN climate conference, COP25, as part of a group of activists from the organization “Green Course.” COP25 was held between December 2nd and December 13th in Madrid. The climate conference takes place annually and is organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the entity within the UN tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. About 26,000 men and women, including government representatives, environmental NGOs, research institutions, academics, journalists, and private companies, participated in the conference which aims to lead the way and make decisions to help manage and solve the climate crisis.

Unfortunately, the energy and hope that filled the streets of the world in 2019 was not present in the corridors of the conference. My disappointment in the decision makers grew from day to day as I closely followed the official discussions. It became clear that the only way to motivate the decision makers, and to have the voice of the people heard, was to organize protests and disrupt the convention – which is what we did.

Why do I say that the decision makers were disappointing? And what did they actually talk about for two weeks?

The hottest topic of conversation during the conference was without a doubt the carbon market. In simple terms, the carbon market sets limits on carbon emissions by country and enables countries to trade emission units. For example, Israel can continue to pollute exactly at the same level it does today, and then buy a quota of carbon emissions from a less polluting country, thereby continuing to pollute at the same intensity. You should know that the main focus of COP25 was to agree on the rules regarding the carbon market mechanisms. Since there were material and irreparable disagreements between countries, especially Brazil and Australia, the decision was postponed until next year’s conference, COP26, to be held in Glasgow. The thought that the carbon market will also dominate COP26, and that no other mechanisms are being discussed, is very disheartening.

Alongside the heated debate on carbon emission trading, this year the conference needed to discuss money and compensation such as “loss and damage.” This is an economic mechanism to compensate developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and is funded by the countries most responsible for bringing humanity into this crisis. Since no country is in a hurry to allocate money to the cause, this issue was also elegantly moved to next year’s conference, after long and drawn out discussions, delayed by countries like the United States that are trying to shake off their responsible .

In addition, you should know that the COP25 cost around 80 million Euros. Funding for the conference came from endorsements secured by the Prime Minister of Spain from companies deeply invested in the energy industry. Yes, you read that correctly, the highly respectable international conference on climate change was financed by polluting fuel companies. Alongside their crimes against the climate, many of these companies are also tied to violations of human rights around the world. These sponsors did not just bankroll the conference, they were allowed to bring in large groups of lobbyists and to influence the discussions! This is an absurd and terrible situation.

The corporate sponsors, the lobbyists, the representatives of governments who came only to look after their own interests, were all prominent and sickened me. The small optimism I have is from the cooperation between the countries most impacted by the climate crisis and the advocacy organization that I am honored to be a part of. We demonstrated, interviewed, wrote articles, and disrupted the good order, to shine a light on the real issues. We sat in on all the discussions and all the votes in order to make the voice of the people heard and to demand that the politicians look humanity as a whole in the eye and make the right decisions.

Translated by Daphna Shapiro Goldberg