Blame, Bushfires, Beef and Bitter hope begins: 1 week since COP25

After less than a week since the UN climate talks in Madrid, negotiators have arrived back to their capitals seeking to balance disappointment, hope and blame as they begin to tell their side of what happened at COP25.

At the end of the UN climate talks, UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres noted that “the international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

This was reiterated by the head of the UN Climate talks, Patricia Espinoza, who was particularly concerned that so many issues were pushed on to next year’s discussions, and highlighted that not she too felt “disappointed as most about the lack of agreement” at the talks.

This lack of agreement will make next year’s challenges even more difficult, as world leaders not only need to “re-communicate or enhance” their National climate plans, but they will also have to re-discuss many of the more challenging topics that failed be agreed upon in Madrid.

However, in pushing back against the idea that all countries failed to reach agreement, The President of the Marshall Islands has specifically called out “our Pacific cousins in Australia” and “our US friends” for blocking progress in carbon markets and loss and damage.

Similarly, Chile’s embattled President Pinera, highlighted that regardless of his country’s efforts to manage the conference, and that in the end, it was “the four big countries (that) didn’t accept the proposals.”

After considerable criticism for Chile’s handling of the negotiations, he later responded on Twitter that it was rather rich countries that “pollute were not up to the challenge and remain in debt”.

However, Chile’s COP President, Carolina Schmidt has argued that rather than a failure, the conference was largely successful, with 7 of 8 major challenges of the UN talks apparently fulfilled. In this thread on Twitter, she argues that the Un talks were infact able to push for a coalition on climate ambition, have seen more than 121 countries commit to climate neutrality and agree on the mechanism for loss and damage here:

Contrastingly so, Brazil’s infamous environment Minister who approached the UN talks as if it was a “shopping trip” laid the blame on the talks at rich nations. He stated that “COP 25 came to nothing” and that was due to “Rich countries do not want to open their carbon credit markets.”

In this live interview with BAND NEWS, Salles describes that rather than seeing the UN climate talks as an opportunity to confront the challenge of climate change, his  “ultimate objective” of the talks, was to be “bring resources back for Brazil”.

During the conference, Salles was widely criticised by Civil Society members, with Brazil winning Climate Action Network’s famed “Colossal Fossil” for blocking the negotiations. Perhaps in response, he an image of a large steak, calling it a “veggie lunch” to apparently “offset our emissions at COP”.

Directly blamed for holding the talks hostage was Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. The Prime Minister has been ashamedly on a “personal holiday” in Hawaii until December 23rd, as his country faced some of the hottest temperatures on record, and continues to be rocked by “catastrophic bushfires” that have led to a “state of Emergency”.  

In the midst of this crisis, Australia has green-lighted a plan to drill for oil in an iconic marine nursery for the endangered southern right whale. 

An Australian Institute poll from April this year highlighted that only 16% of local residents approve oil drilling in the area, and 68% oppose. 

“The Great Australian Bight is a national treasure and now we know that people across the country want to see it protected from exploitation,” said Noah Schultz-Byard, The Australia Institute’s SA projects manager.

They also found that only 8% of local residents would oppose the area becoming a World Heritage Area, with 76% of local residents in favour of the idea.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Environment Minister, Angus Taylor, has been telling Australian media that he didn’t “see” any criticism of Australia at the UN conference. He has also suggested that Australia could apparently meet its Paris goals without carrying forward its Kyoto credits.

This of course runs counter to even the government’s own analysis of Australia’s rising carbon emissions, but may be a way of ‘saving face’ in light of the international condemnation that his Kyoto carryover policy has faced. 

In the midst of global media reports labelling COP25 a failure, there was a general consensus from civil society and negotiators that bad deal was better than a good deal, especially when it came Australia and Brazil’s positions on Carbon Markets.

While this will undoubtedly make the COP26 presidency’s  job much harder, the UK’s former Energy Minister and upcoming COP26 President, Claire Perry O’Neil recently tweeted that:

For the #Article6 negs at COP25 No Deal is def better than the bad deal proposed.  We will pull no punches next year in getting clarity and certainty for Natural carbon markets and will work with everyone including the private sector for clear rules and transparent measurement.