Nearly half a million demonstrators gathered in Madrid as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened more than two weeks ago, with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg the star of the show at a mass rally. But despite being the longest climate summit yet, the affair ultimately amounted to little. Nearly 27,000 delegates came together with the supposed aim of finalizing the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which is to officially take effect in 2020—settling mechanisms for international cooperation under Article 6 of the deal. But, unable to agree on terms, delegates finally invoked “Rule 16” of the climate process—allowing them to put off the critical decisions for another year. This means there will have been no progress when COP26 is convened in Glasgow in November 2020. UN Secretary General António Guterres tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the results of COP25, and that “the international community lost an important opportunity.” (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)
The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference opened in Madrid—originally planned for Chile, but changed due to the political instability there. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders to select the “path of hope.” He characterized this choice as: “A path of resolve, of sustainable solutions. A path where more fossil fuels remain where they should be–in the ground–and where we are on the way to carbon neutrality by 2050. That is the only way to limit global temperature rise to the necessary 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.” (Photo: cwizner/Pixabay)
The UN Environment Program has released its tenth annual report on “emissions gaps,” finding that the current rate of global carbon emissions will lead to an average temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2100. The report was completed by international scientists and specialists to assess where countries are in terms of their emissions levels versus where they need to be to avoid the worst damage from climate change. Inger Andersen, the executive director of the program, wrote in the foreword that “[o]ur collective failure to act strongly and early means that we must now implement deep and urgent cuts… This report gives us a stark choice: set in motion the radical transformations we need now, or face the consequences of a planet radically altered by climate change.” (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)
A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)
The White House is accusing Peru of violating its commitment to protect the Amazon rainforest, threatening to hold Lima in violation of the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement . Robert Lighthizer, President Trump's top trade negotiator, announced that he is seeking consultations with Lima to address concerns about its recent move to curtail the authority of Peru's auditor for timber exports, the Organism for the Supervision of Forestry Resources (OSINFOR), established as a provision of the trade agreement. The move move had been demanded by Peru's logging industry following an OSINFOR seizure of illegal timber. The White House needs support from congressional Democrats to pass the pending US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump's replacement for NAFTA, which is supposed to have tougher labor protections. The forestry annex in the Peru agreement was conceived as a model for a new inspection system that could include confiscation at the border of goods found to violate treaty provisions, and the prosecution of companies that import noncompliant products. (Image via Sierra Club)
On his first day in office, President Jair Bolsonaro issued a measure taking away responsibility for indigenous land demarcation from the indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, and handing it over to the Agriculture Ministry. In the same decree, Bolsonaro shifted authority over regularization of quilombos (Afro-Brazilian collective lands) from the agrarian reform institute, INCRA, to the Agriculture Ministry. The measure greatly weakens FUNAI, taking away its most important function. In practice, key areas of indigenous and quilombo policy will now be in the hands of agribusiness advocates—a long-time demand of the Bancada Ruralista (agribusiness lobby) in Congress. Bolsonaro is openly calling for abolition of Brazil's large indigenous reserves, a move with grave implications for the Amazon rainforest and global climate. (Photo: Kayapo women in Brazilian Amazon, via FUNAI)
The Yellow Vest movement in France scored a victory, as President Emmanuel Macron agreed to suspend a controversial fuel tax after weeks of increasingly violent protests. This may be concretely a win for the working class, but the fact that Macron imposed the tax in the name of reducing carbon emissions has provided fodder for anti-environmental content to the movement. Exploiting this moment, Donald Trump blamed the uprising on the Paris climate accord, tweeting: "The Paris Agreement isn't working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting 'We Want Trump!' Love France." (Photo via CrimethInc)
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd issued an urgent call for accelerated action to combat climate change. The statement comes after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the impacts of global warming of 2°C—the increase permitted under the Paris Accord. Boyd said that climate change is "one of the greatest threats to human rights" and will have devastating effects on the "rights to life, health, food, housing, and water, as well as the right to a healthy environment." In order to meet human rights obligations, Boyd called on counties to exceed their Paris Agreement obligations. If the temperature increase is allowed to increase to 2.0°C, it would result in "human rights violations upon millions of people." (Photo via Jurist)
Canada's Federal Court of Appeal overturned the government's approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. A number of groups challenged the approval, including several First Nations and two municipalities, asserting that the indigenous communities that would be impacted by the expansion were not adequately consulted on the project. Following the Federal Court's decision, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she is pulling her province out of Canada's national climate change plan until construction resumes. (Photo: Robzor)
Concern is mounting for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s vast forests and rich wildlife as logging concessions and licenses to explore for oil in protected areas are prepared ahead of presidential elections later this year. A moratorium on industrial logging, in place since 2002, has been broken with three concessions reportedly handed out by the DRC environment ministry to Chinese-owned logging companies. A further 14 logging concessions are expected to be granted within months, according to a Greenpeace investigation. In addition, the government is preparing to reclassify large areas of Salonga and Virunga national parks—both UNESCO World Heritage sites—to allow oil exploitation. (Photo via Global Forest Watch)
Indigenous groups claimed a victory at the UN climate talks in Bonn as governments acknowledged for the first time that they can play a leadership role in protecting forests and keeping global temperatures within safe levels. But some critics point out that the adopted text stops short of actually acknowledging indigenous rights over land and territory.
As the Paris Agreement took effect, hailed as the first binding climate change treaty, activists charge that it is actually "binding" in name only, with no enforcement mechanisms.