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U.N. Climate Change Holds “COP25” in Madrid

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in the latest of its series of climate conferences, is assembling in Spain’s capital to conduct the event know as “COP25”.

The Conference was originally scheduled to be held in Santiago, Chile, but that city was deterred from hosting it by what were described as “raging protests”. These protest are said to have done—inter alia--some US$400 million in damages to the city’s metro system. The demonstrations, which led to clashes between protesters and the police, were said to have turned violent. Protesters asserted that “social justice is an integral part of any effort to curb the impacts of a warming climate”. Therefore, President Sebastian Pinera canceled the Conference, saying that his government would focus on “fully restoring public order, security and social peace”.

At that point, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stepped in to extend an invitation to host the Conference in his capital. Its Chair remained a Chilean, Minister of Environment Carolina Schmidt, and the dates remained the same, 2-13 December 2019.

The name “COP25” refers to a Convention of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). That Convention was created by the U.N. in 1992, and provides for an annual convention of those states which are parties to it.

The U.N.’s Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres of Portugal, addressed the assembled press at what is described as a “Pre-COP25 Press Conference” in Madrid. He began his remarks with what could only be described as a stark statement of harsh realities: “…the human species has been at war with the planet”, he said, “And the planet is fighting back”. This was followed by a series of short, frightening statements:

“The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is releasing its State of the Climate Report at this Conference”.

“And its findings are clear”.

“The last five years have been the hottest ever recorded”.

“Sea levels are the highest in human history”.

“Ice caps are melting at unprecedented speed…”.

“Biodiversity on land and sea is under severe attack”.

“…climate change is no longer a long-term problem”, Guterres said. “We are confronted now with a global climate crisis. The point of no-return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling toward us”.

Having painted this bleak picture, the Secretary-General abruptly changed his tone to one of “hope not of despair”. He felt that past and current efforts have been “utterly inadequate”. And he pointed out that many countries have not even met the commitments they made in the Paris Agreement, signed in the French capital in April 2016. Guterres noted also that the use of fossil fuels—especially coal—is way above rates to which the nations have committed.

But he said that “The signals of hope are multiplying”, and “Public opinion is waking up everywhere”. What he said was lacking was political will: to--put a price on carbon, and stop subsidies on fossil fuels. That was why, he said, he had convened the Climate Action Summit in September 2019, and why COP25 in Madrid was so critically important.

Guterres said that 100 million dollars should be made available, to help developing countries with “mitigation and adaptation”. And he expressed hope that COP25 would yield a “solid basis for international cooperation”.

At this point, however, the Secretary-General reverted to his previous tone of alarm, saying the “We are in a deep hole, and we are still digging. Soon it will be too deep to escape”.

Secretary-General Guterres saluted the efforts of “young activists I have been meeting”, saying “They understand that we are jeopardizing their future”.

Guterres’ speech was unusually direct for a world leader—in both tone and content. The greatest part of it consisted of short, declarative sentences, which formed single-sentence paragraphs. It was very obvious that he took great care in the crafting and impact of his message. And it produced a statement that is searingly powerful in its simplicity.


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