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What do we expect from COP25?


Never in the history of international climate negotiations, has a Conference of the Parties (COP) experienced so many mishaps. COP25, the penultimate conference before the beginning of the implementation of the targets of the Paris Agreement, was to be held in Brazil but was turned down in 2018 by the newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro. Chile then proposed to replace Brazil and hold the conference. However, it decided against this after a wave of protests in the Spring. The government of Spain quickly offered to host the COP, still under the Chilean presidency, on December 2-13.

As one of its main targets, Madrid has the completion of the so-called Rulebook of the Paris Agreement. This is the implementation manual of the treaty, which was not concluded in 2018 at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The key issue is article 6, which deals with carbon markets and needs to be regulated to ensure that the accounting of the carbon traded in this market reflects exactly what was emitted and removed from the atmosphere – thereby avoiding the “double counting” of credits in the transactions between countries and between companies. The same reduction of emission cannot be discounted from the targets from the country that bought it and that sold it.

There are different positions on the table about the conditions of additionality (to what extent the carbon market helps to increase the ambition, going beyond the targets of each country) and the prevention of double counting. Brazil is one of the countries that have argued for the autonomy of each government to define what is additional in the reductions of emissions of companies in relation to the national target. This tends to be a problem for the integrity of the accounting of carbon – and of the climate. Brazil’s position was one of the main factors that prevented the rulebook being concluded in Poland.

COP25 begins under the influence of the climate emergency and the strikes for the climate – not by chance, selected as two expressions of the year in the English language by the Oxford and Collins dictionaries. In 2019, the school strike initiated by the Swede Greta Thunberg became a global movement of pressure on governments to increase their ambition. Acts of civil disobedience initiated by the organization Extinction Rebellion have been held in cities around the planet.

Science has followed showing that the situation is serious: this year, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) published two reports about the consequences of the climate crisis for land use and food, and the oceans and the frozen parts of the planet (the cryosphere). And the World Meteorological Organization indicated one more record of concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – 407.8 parts per million in 2018. In Madrid, there will be a decision about whether and how the scientists’ recommendations can guide the increase of the ambition of the targets of each country. Some countries, among them Saudi Arabia, USA, Iran and Kuwait, have opposed the objective references to the conclusions of the IPCC.

This year, the clamor in the streets and the warnings of scientists have raised the status of the subject of climate change in politics. The climate was a central issue in the national elections in Canada and Australia, and several countries have declared a state of climate emergency, such as Canada and the European Union. However, the practical effect is still insufficient. In September, the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, organized its Climate Action Summit, inviting countries to propose an increased ambition in their NDCs (the Paris targets). Seventy countries indicated that they would perform the reviews, but few of them are large emitters. Worse than that, the USA, the largest historic emitter, delivered in November its removal letter from Paris Agreement, which become effective in November 2020.

Brazil arrives in Madrid at the darkest moment of its history since the return to democracy. The arrest of environmental activists in Pará and the invasion of the office of the Health and Happiness Project by the civil police, in a clear set-up by the authorities, one week before the COP, show that the rule of law is under threat and that Jair Bolsonaro is serious in his campaign promise “to end all kinds of activism.”

The hostile attitude in relation to civil society is also reflected in the change of direction of the Foreign Ministry regarding the COP: for the first time in over 12 years, the Brazilian chancellery did not provide credentials to NGOs, academia and the private sector.

The deforestation in the Amazon in 2019 had its highest rate in a decade (9,762 km2) and remains high, which already signifies that the deforestation reduction target assumed in the National Policy on Climate Change for 2020 will not be complied with, even if all the chainsaws stopped working today. In a moment of rare sincerity, the environment minister declared, a few days before the COP, that he would be happy with a smaller increase in the destruction of the Amazon region in 2020 in relation to the absurd figures of 29.5% for 2019, and he assumed that zero illegal deforestation, which is a commitment of Brazil as conducive to the NDC, “should not happen.”

None of this is likely to prevent the Brazilian government arriving at COP25 imposing, as a condition to sit down at the table, vast funds from the international community supposedly for forest protection. After saying that climate conferences are mere luxury vacations for civil servants, the minister Ricardo Salles acquired a sudden interest in the COP after the publication of disastrous deforestation data. The presence of the Minister for two weeks in Madrid accompanying the technical negotiators, which is something unprecedented in 25 years of climate conferences, may change the historical negotiation powers of Brazil – for the worse.

If the scenario at the federal level is extremely negative, the state and local governments have carried out politically important movements, albeit timid ones. Over 20 Brazilian states have declared their commitment to implement the Paris Agreement by Brazil. Environmental agencies from all the States signed, in November, a letter of commitment for the climate and in favor of the adoption of low carbon development models associated with job creation, the conservation of natural resources, the reduction of inequalities, and the expansion of social progress. Recife became the first Brazilian city to recognize, by decree, the climate emergency, and the obligatory teaching about climate change and sustainability in the municipal school curriculum.

Expected results in Madrid

The Climate Observatory expects that COP25 will deliver real progress in the following aspects:


The Emissions Gap Report, a UN Environment report, shows that emissions need to be cut by 7.6% per year in order to have a chance of stabilizing global warming at 1,5oC and by 2.7% to stabilize at 2°C. In 2020, there will be the first review cycle of the NDCs. The targets proposed today will result in a global warming of 3.2oC, which is more than double the target. The Climate Observatory expects in Madrid that:

  • The major emitters of greenhouse gases announce the increase of their targets for the first cycle of NDCs (2025 or 2030), compatible with a warming of 1.5°C.
  • There is commitment from all the countries with long-term strategies that lead to carbon neutrality by 2050. 
  • The developed countries announce increases in their contributions to the climate financing target of US$ 100 billion per year from 2020, recognizing the existing gap in the finances and the resupplying of the Green Climate Fund with new and larger contributions. 
  • The countries decide the scope of the Second Periodic Review of the long-term objective of the Climate Convention, which discusses the importance of limiting warming to 1.5°C. 
  • The countries request the Secretariat of the Climate Convention that it submits by October 1, 2020, an aggregated assessment of the impact of the new NDCs, so that the parties of the Convention can respond to the results at COP26 in Glasgow. 
  • That common timeframes are approved of five years for the NDCs from 2031. 

The subject of loss and damage, dealt with in article 8, of the Paris Agreement, is considered one of the “midnight subjects” of COP25 – with a potential of dragging the negotiations on until dawn. Loss and damages have been defined as the response answer to the impacts of global warming for which simple adaptation is insufficient. At COP19 in Warsaw, an international process was defined to address the issue, the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM). The Climate Observatory expects in Madrid that:

  • The countries establish a review of WIM that can provide adequate support so that the poorest countries can respond to the impacts of the climate crisis. 
  • The mandate of the WIM will be extended. 
  • A financing mechanism is established for loss and damages on a scale of US$ 50 billion per year from 2022, with funds from the exploitation of fossil fuels or from international transport, which can be institutionalized at COP26. 

The rules for the market mechanisms should ensure transparency in the accounting of the carbon market mechanisms so that they contribute to an effective overall general absolute reduction of global emissions of greenhouse gases, preventing the double counting of reductions of emissions.

The Climate Observatory expects in COP25 that:

  • The corresponding adjustments (the credit rebate only for the purchaser country, to prevent the seller also counting the credit for NDC purposes) are assuredly applied to all transacted credits, independent of the credits being additional to the NDC. 
  • The countries agree with a robust accounting of the credits transferred internationally under article 6.2 (“Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes” – ITMOs) and an equally robust baseline methodology for the credits transacted under article 6.4 in order to ensure the “Overall Mitigation in Global Emissions” – OMGEs). 
  • A partial cancellation rate of credits is adopted or a discount rate for article 6.4 in order to guarantee additionality in the reduction of emissions claimed in the MDS. 
  • Clear social and environmental safeguards are ensured for carbon projects to be eligible for the generation of credits, so that the indigenous peoples and local communities have an obligatory participation in the design of each project and without its life cycle, and have their rights respected. 

Brazil in Madrid

Brazil arrives at COP25 accompanied by the worst possible performance indicators: the worst deforestation rate in the Amazon region in 11 years; the largest increase in the annual deforestation rate since 1998 (29.5%); a 74% increase in the deforestation in Indigenous Lands; a 39% increase in protected areas; at least 160 cases of invasion of indigenous lands in 19 states; greenhouse gas emissions on the rise; and the failure to contract new projects by the attempted interference in the Amazon Fund. The arrest of the firemen and the invasion of the Health and Happiness Project have consolidated the terrible image of Brazil abroad. The decision by Ricardo Salles to accompany the technical negotiations during COP25 will have an impact on the role of Brazil as a facilitator of the agreements between rich and poor countries.

Salles, who has denied the human cause of climate changes, arrives in Madrid with the threat of blackmail: a condition for Brazil to sit at the table is the negotiation of the receipt of money for the reduction of past governments in the deforestation in the Amazon region – US$ 10 billion a year, as declared by the minister in a press conference, which is the equivalent of 10% of all the climate finance promised by the developed countries from 2020.

In the absence of a sudden outbreak of common sense and responsibility, which would prevent the minister Salles from acting in the negotiation with the same zeal that he takes care of the forests, there is an enormous risk of Brazil becoming isolated in Madrid, and seeing the country’s image with the international community becoming even worse than it is now.

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