• George Baumgarten

“COP25” Conference Meets in Madrid


Delegates have convened in Spain’s capital, Madrid, in what is being called a critical planning conference for the future of Planet Earth. The meeting, which is known as “COP25”, is actually the annual review conference for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was signed in the French capital in April, 2016


In what could well be described as the Conference’s “keynote address”, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the delegates and sounded the alarm: In a speech reminiscent of his opening statement at the Pre-COP25 Press Conference, told of two possible paths for humanity: the path of surrender and the path of hope. “Do we really want to be remembered”, he asked, “as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned?”


In contrast, Guterres offered the “path of hope”: a path where fossil fuels remain in the ground, and we are on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050. With the help of science, “…we need to get on the right path today, not tomorrow”. And COP25, he said, is “our opportunity”.

“The signs”, Guterres said, “are unmissable”. And, “The last five years have been the hottest ever recorded”. And he cited statistics showing warming trends in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica.


The Secretary-General pointed out that two-thirds of the world’s “megacities” are located by the sea. And those seas, apart from rising, are also being poisoned. And they both absorb a quarter of all CO2 in the atmosphere, and generate over half our oxygen.

The biggest polluter, he said, was the fossil fuel industry. But it is not alone. We have been making small steps, but they are not enough. Coal is still too widely used as a fuel. What we need is “not an incremental approach, but a transformational one”. “We are all in this together”, he said, and “If we want change, we must be that change”, a phrase that echoes the words of Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. It was this need for change that led him to convene the Climate Action Summit in September 2019, held just prior to the annual “General Debate” of the 74th General Assembly.


Guterres said that “The tasks are many, our timelines are tight, and every item is important. It is imperative to complete our work and we have no time to spare”. And he added that, above all, “…the COP25 must convey to the world a firm determination to change course”.

The President of the 74th session of the General Assembly, Nigeria’s Tijjani Mohammad-Bande, also attended the COP25 meeting. He expected to meet with the Conference’s president,


Carolina Schmidt of Chile, as well as with Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on

Climate Change (UNFCCC). He was also scheduled to participate in a meeting with youth leaders.


Among the most prominent of those youth leaders was Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who made a sensation at another recent conference, where she spoke with a passion and eloquence far beyond her 16 years.


At the COP25 Conference, Thunberg (by now 17), said that she had high hopes for the Madrid Conference. In spite of those hopes, however, and in spite of a young people’s strike of over a year, very little—if any—constructive action has been taken. She spoke, shortly after her arrival in the Spanish capital, at a rally attended by over 500,000 people.

In the aftermath of the Conference, the pessimistic assessments far outweighed the hopeful ones. Helen Mountford of the World Resources Institute said that it “fell far short”. And May Boeve of the climate campaign group “350.org” noted that most of the large emitters were “missing in action or obstructive”. In other words…they either didn’t show up at all, or actively tried to frustrate efforts at any constructive progress. And, as she also put it, “people and planet were held captive”.


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