Madrid: The climate fight’s new arena

Global warming, climate change on land and a special report on oceans to lead COP25 discussions.


IFEMA Madrid

COP25 will take place from December 2 t0 13, 2019 at IFEMA – Feria de Madrid

In 1997, Kyoto, Japan, the countries of the world came together for the Conference of Parties (COP) 3, where they signed the Kyoto Protocol to try and limit the amount of damage humans were doing to the planet.

2009, Copenhagen, Denmark. Nations again came together for COP 15 and signed the Copenhagen Accord to continue the fight.

2015, Paris, France. COP 21 had countries sign the Paris Agreement which “charted a new course for all countries” to deal with climate change.

2019, Madrid, Spain. It is that time again, COP 25, and the world will meet again and continue the discussion about the climate emergency.

But why do they need to meet again? What are they going to do? Why is it important? With the help of Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) contributor Professor Peter Newman, we are going to find out.

What happened to Santiago?

Those of you paying attention would know COP 25 was meant to be held in Santiago, Chile.

Last month, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, announced Chile would not be able to host both the COP 25 and the next APEC meeting due to continued unrest in his country.

The unrest stemmed from rising inequality in Chile and has so far claimed the lives of 19 people, with hundreds more injured and thousands arrested.

Luckily for COP 25, the Spanish government swept in and saved the day by allowing the conference to go ahead as planned in Madrid from December 2-13.

What does COP25 aim to achieve?

According to IPCC contributor and Curtin University sustainability professor Peter Newman, it was important for governments to come together to discuss the reports produced by the IPCC.

“We (the IPCC) feed our results and our reports to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and nations have to meet and talk through what they are going to do,” he said about the conference.

“We keep producing reports that need responses that need to be thought through. The last three reports have been firstly the 1.5-degree centigrade report, which I helped to write, then came the land report and then most recently the ocean report.

“These are all taking the agenda further and helping us to understand the systems, the opportunities and the threats that are involved. Nations need to meet and respond to that.”

What do these reports say?

Prof. Newman said the three main reports covered global warming, the effect of climate change on the land, and a special report on oceans.

To give them their correct titles, the reports were The Special Report: Global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems, and the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

He said the reports were dense and could be difficult to interpret, with just some of the summaries more than 40 pages long.

The reports: an overview.

The Special Report: Global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This report was developed to look at global warming. While that term once denoted climate change, it now referred to the temperature the globe had warmed.

According to this report, the globe had already warmed by 1 degree Celsius due to human-made climate change. The report looked at how the world would be affected by an increase of 1.5C.

If the planet warmed by 1.5C there would be higher average temperatures in most regions, increased instances of extreme temperatures, an increase in rainfall in some areas but increased risks of drought in other areas.

While this seemed bad, the report also agreed the negative effects would be significantly reduced in severity if warming was limited to 1.5C rather than 2C.

However, the reported also stated that at the current Paris Agreement rate, the planet’s warming would not stop at 1.5 degrees.

The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems.

This mouthful of a report looked at how important land was to climate change. According to the report, 70 per cent of land was directly affected by humans and was an important factor in the climate system.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use accounted for 13 per cent of CO2 emissions, 44 per cent of methane and 82 per cent of nitrous oxide. This accounted for 23 per cent of humanity’s overall emissions.

According to the report, not only did land use affect emissions, it was also very vulnerable to changes in the climate.

But the report positively noted “sustainable land management, including sustainable forest management, [could} prevent and reduce land degradation, maintain land productivity, and sometimes reverse the adverse impacts of climate change on land degradation”.

The report called for governments to make changes in the way they used land and outlined the positive effect of change.

Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

The final report looked at the ocean and the cryosphere, or the frozen parts of the planet. With more than 1 billion people being directly reliant on these systems, the report highlighted the importance of these areas.

According to the report, water availability was at risk in high mountain areas due to the decline in glaciers, snow, ice and permafrost. This scarcity would also affect the flow of rivers and streams that relied on these frozen water systems.

The loss of these frozen areas would increase the amount of liquid water moving to oceans and see a rise in the sea level of an estimated 30 to 60 cm by 2100, an increase in extreme sea level events such as floods and storm surges, and disruption to ocean ecosystems.

Like other reports it called for change from governments to tackle climate change.

What happens after the conference?

Once the bright lights of Madrid fade and the government representatives return to their countries, the work to tackle climate change needs to continue. So, how does this conference help?

“There’s a combination of what are these reports mean for us and how can we respond to this increasingly accelerating need to change. That requires global meetings,” Prof. Newman said.

“People are talking very hard about what they can take back to their governments and say ‘look there’s a new idea from this company or organisation or country that we can learn from and that we can put into practice’.

“So that is the way the world is changing and it is step by step.”

The nations will meet again in 2020 for COP 26 which is set to be hosted by Glasgow, Scotland.

Is there hope for our planet?

Climate change anxiety is now recognised disorder. Research conducted by mental health organisation ReachOut found four in five Australian students reported being somewhat or very anxious about climate change.

But Prof. Newman said there was still plenty of hope for the future.

“If you choose to do hopeful things, it is extraordinary how much change you can bring about rather than just talking about the despairing things and hoping that somewhere people will be so shit scared that they will do something,” Prof. Newman said.

“I think it works. I don’t think we need any more despair but lots of hope. And there’s plenty of it, if you dig in.”