COP 25 – A Missed Opportunity

by Ophélie Mortier,
Responsible Investment Strategist DPAM


The UN climate summit in Madrid came to a single consensus: the complete failure of the talks.

Indeed, the only point on which everyone seemed to agree was that the outcome of the tedious, two-week-long UN negotiations was generally disappointing.

To its credit, the Spanish government achieved a herculean task by successfully organising the event in less than a month. The COP 25 was initially supposed to take place in Chile, but was cancelled in October after months of violent protests against the Chilean government. Still, the project’s overall failure must be acknowledged: The Secretary General of the UN emphasized the urgent need for action by discussing the ‘point of no return on the climate question’ in his introductory speech. In addition, there were numerous examples of global warming disasters this year (fires in Brazil, melting glaciers, cyclones in Mozambique and the Bahamas, the flood in Venice, droughts in Australia, …). Even so, the countries at COP 25 were unable to adequately define the technical and legal obligations which would limit global warming to +2°C, let alone +1,5°C. This would require net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In order to successfully pull this off, we would need concrete answers and guidelines on how to correctly implement the Paris Agreement.

Admittedly, the primary objective was rather technical and quantitative. Nevertheless, expectations were high in the face of the climate emergency pointed out by scientists and criticised by an unparalleled global mobilisation of protesters.

The summit’s expectations were twofold:

  • To deal with the carbon-pricing matter and the accounting mechanisms required to properly regulate the carbon market according to article 6 of the Paris Agreement.
  • To set up a “blue COP” in order discuss the matter of the oceans, which represent two-thirds of the earth’s surface and absorb a quarter of CO2 emissions.

Article 6 was at the heart of endless, highly technical accounting discussions. These mainly looked at ways to avoid double counting. Certain countries also wasted time defending advantageous calculation methods which were previously used in the Kyoto protocol. This would then make it far easier for the biggest polluters to meet their CO2 goals. However, all these technical deliberations seemed to mostly aim at lowering ambitions, rather than finding a real, feasible way to the implement the rules set out in the Paris Agreement. In the end, the summit postponed the matter to the intermediate June 2020 summit in Bonn.

As for the specific focus on the oceans, the summit recognised a need for faster and stronger action. It decided to organise a dialogue on the oceans

The summit also looked into the issue of climate-related loss and damages and the individual responsibilities of all those who require significant funding. However, here too, the summit ended up postponing any actual decision-making. The meeting decided to set up a working group by 2020. This group would then work on an action plan to establish the financing role of the Green Climate Fund.

Mr. Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, personally expressed his disappointment at the outcome of COP 25. The world is not on track to meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Moreover, the upcoming year marks an important turning point in this regard, as the Paris Agreement signatories will have to revise their commitments (“INDC”). Today, only 80 countries -representing barely 10% of global emissions- have reviewed their ambitions upwards.

The recent announcement of the EU’s Green Deal -which wants to devote at least 25% of the EU’s long-term budget to climate action- has managed to steal the media’s attention from COP 25. Unfortunately, the headlines on Von Der Leyen’s promising initiatives did little to galvanise major polluters such as Brazil, China, India or Australia.

Truly a missed opportunity. Hopefully the upcoming June conference in Bonn and the September EU-China summit in Leipzig will prove to be more fruitful…

In the meantime, we will keep you updated on the Green Deal, which will have to serve as a consolation prize to make up for COP 25.


Your name

Your e-mail

Name receiver

E-mail address receiver

Your message