COP25 concludes with the Cologne Agreement

This weekend’s Conference of Parties 25 was concluded on Sunday as a consensus was reached and all delegations signed the Cologne Agreement. The comprehensive agreement includes both, strong negotiation results as well as remaining question marks. 

Most importantly, with regard to first three articles covering mitigation, the countries agreed to enhance their ambitions to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, peak global emissions in 2025 and to form three new categories of countries according to the official UN classification: Developed, developing and least developed countries. In addition, the delegates recognize the need of annually contributions to the green climate fund of USD 300 bn by 2025 and USD 500 bn by 2030. On the other hand, the countries postponed the decision on a compliance system for meeting the NDC targets to the following COP. However, the Cologne Agreement requires the countries that do not meet their NDCs by 2025 to provide comprehensive reports to the Compliance Committee and to work out concrete measures in order to meet the NDCs.

In the market mechanism group some stronger protection for indigenous people was implemented into REDD+, so that initial opponents were also able to agree to it in the end. For the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) the conference just turned around at the edge of a cliff: In the last minute countries refrained from financing fossil fuel solutions thanks to the steady opposition of the Canadian representative. On the other hand the agreement surprisingly allowed for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) solutions under the SDM, despite the severe accident in Norway this morning and experts now saying that the technology is not suitable to protect the climate anymore. Also in the article on shipping the language remained rather vague due to a lack of time to properly discuss the topic. 

In the end all countries agreed to a final draft, but the inhabitants of planet earth can only hope that future negotiations can take more ambitious actions in the area of market mechanisms to protect the climate.

The adaptation working group agreed to initialize the transition towards integrating the Adaptation Fund under the Green Climate Fund. The integration should happen as soon as possible but no later than 2 years from now. Furthermore, prioritization in the allocation should be go to the most vulnerable countries. With regards to article 2, the distinguished delegates found consensus to underline the urgency of implementing commitments related to financing and transfer of technology as well as enhancing the link between technology transfer and finance. When it came to Loss & Damage, delegates agreed that the annual budget should not be less than 1.5% of the annual Green Climate Fund available. The financing of this additional budget will be the subject of priority negotiations during COP26.

As a result, delegations can look back at a successful Conference of the Parties 25 and can be hopeful about what future COPs have to bring. The Cologne Agreement in full can be read here.

Love is in the air – Multitude of side agreements reached

On the final day of COP 25 in Cologne, love seemed to be in the air as a multitude of side agreements were reached in addition to the Cologne Agreement. 

Russia and China agreed on intensifying and improving the international relations and trade with each other to foster both countries economic developments. Furthermore, Russia and China will discuss possible incentivesto increase the ambition level of the nationally determined contributions. More specifics will be agreed upon in a bilateral meeting in the upcoming months in Moscow.

Another bilateral agreement was announced by Brazil and China, with the goal to increase the exchange of clean technologies including nuclear, solar, hydro and forest management. The specifics of this agreement will be discussed during a bilateral meeting in Rio de Janeiro in December 2019.

Last but not least, the delegations of Germany, France, UK and Brazil were disappointed by the outcomes oft the Market Mechanism Working Group and have consequently reached a multilateral agreement. In this agreement, the named countries have pledged $300 million dollars to be available for Brazil to combat deforestation through the REDD+ program. These funds shall be offered for a period of five years.

Namibia pushes NGOs out of the discussion around NDCs

In a heated debate, also in the light of the recent Norway explosion, NGOs tried to fight against the inclusion of CCS and fossile fuel projects in the NDCs. One party that didn’t want to hear anything from the NGOs was Namibia. It pointed out that the “NGOs are just making noise” and that the Namibian delegation only wants to base decisions on “proper research”. This is why Namibia proposed to revoked the NGOs speaking rights and surprisingly convinced the chair to do so. This happened without a vote. NGOs thus suddenly found themselves frozen out of this important debate. 

Attac, also speaking on behalf of WWF, Friends of the Earth,, Greenpeace and Indigenous environmental network, are furious: “The NGOs are here to present civil society and also the voters. Revoking the speaking rights means pushing out minorities, those without a voice, and the civil societies of the respective countries. This is unacceptable. If it was not for the fact that this is the last day and an agreement is necessary, we NGOs would take drastic measure to defend our speaking rights”

People are now wondering what kind of a result will come out of COP 25, now that some important stakeholders can no longer make their opinions heard in the debate.

Reactions to the CCS explosion in Norway vary widely

The terrible events that happened this morning in Norway strongly questions the future role of Carbon Capturing Storage technologies. Several delegates therefore acknowledge the changed importance of such solutions and stress the breakthroughs in other fields of the COP25 negotiations. However, the WCA, IGU and IOGP commented on the situation by pointing out the positive aspects of CCS plants. 

“The average CCS plant is currently able to capture 85-95% of CO2. This is a promising statistic, yet there remains a high potential for further improvement, and thus for increased climate change mitigation through CCS. Therefore, we stress that we must continue optimizing current practices and this requires further investments. This announcement shouldn’t hold us from exploring CCS now and in the future. Moreover, even the IPCC affirmed that in order to reach the 1.5C target, we must integrate CCS to the mitigation portfolio. We should not waste the knowledge and milestones we have achieved, but rather invest in improving further to allow big industries to reduce their emissions, rather sooner than later.”

However, NGOs such as the WWF stress that mitigation should be progressed with sustainable and secure measures prioritized over technological solutions that might never make a significant contribution. 

“Even with new CSS technologies, the emissions will always be there. A clear shift towards renewables is needed to help the planet combat climate change. Moreover, we want to stress the dangers related to such experiments, as the recent accident in Norway exemplifies.”

It comes down to the distinguished delegates to decide what role CCS should play in the final agreement of COP25.

“Today we think of our mother”

With the last working group session starting this moment, the big question remains whether a common and strong agreement can be passed at the COP25 in Cologne. Big issues remain unsolved despite the limited time available. In the mitigation group, an agreement on financial contributions to the mitigation fund and green climate fund seems likely, however the discussion covering compliance is still to come. The adaptation working group reached consensus on the matters discussed with regards to the adaptation fund. However, it still needs to agree on a solution in the article three (lost and damage) and article four (climate refugees). In the market mechanisms group, most agenda items related to REDD+ were passed, however there are still disagreements in aviation and shipping as well as the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM). 

While the distinguished delegates run out of time, passionate speeches were given in  the second last plenary session. The representatives of the attending NGOs once more stressed the urgency for strong and binding measures. Inspired by today’s Mother’s Day, NGOs recalled the central importance of Mother Earth for our all survival: “

“Yesterday, you have made an ambitious commitment – the commitment to stick to 1.5°. The problem is these are the words we are hearing in the working groups, and they are insanely weak and take us nowhere. It is hippocratic. Now it is time to make commitments.

This is the time for clear language that puts ambition in writing. We, as representatives of the civil society, urge you to be clear and strong in the use of language so that this agreement will not be just words, but make an actual difference. At the end of today, we want an agreement that shapes our future considerably.”

In addition, the distinguished delegate of the Solomon Island reminded the assembled delegates in an emotional speech, that their homes are sinking and only 130 months remain until irreversible damage is done.

Breakthrouth on REDD+ this morning.

The ground for this mornings discussions was already prepared by informal talks last nights. Notably Ecuador took the lead, also making sure to include a strong protection for indigenous people potentially affected by REDD+. They soon built a coalition with Bolivia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Germany, South Korea, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and other countries. 

Today morning it became clear that they were successful in convincing all the parties and succeeded in the first big breakthrough for this working chair. All points in the area of REDD+ were passed and the discussion now moves on to Aviation and Shipping.