UN climate change conference COP25 opens in Madrid

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This image grabbed from a video shows delegates posing for a group photo while attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid, Spain, Dec. 2, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP25 officially opened in Madrid on Monday, where delegates are discussing measures to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The opening ceremony began with a warning from Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): "If we continue as we are doing, we run the risk of increasing the temperature of the planet and that will have an effect and terrible consequences for humanity and threaten our existence."

"We are not doing enough and we are not even getting close to what we need to do to control this situation," he said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the world would need "solidarity and flexibility to win the war against climate change."

Guterres explained that there is only one way to control the planet's temperature and that was the "limited use of fossil fuels. If we don't do that we will end up in a catastrophic situation," he warned, before praising the work of young climate activists.

"Young people are telling the leaders that they need to fight against the climate emergency," commented the UN chief.

The event is hosted by the Spanish capital after Chile, which presides over the event, had to step down as host due to social unrest.

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez welcomed delegates to Spain, saying "Madrid will be the world capital of the fight against the climate emergency ... But above all we want to be the capital of dialogue between nations united against a common enemy for all humanity."

He said that although the event was being held in Spain, it is being presided over by Chile. "This is Chile's COP: it is Chile that has organized the leadership and that has worked for an alliance against climate change and the success of this event will belong to Chile."

Time for action

The major task of the conference is to discuss Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the measures to promote voluntary international cooperation by paying a price on carbon, emission trading schemes and other market mechanisms.

The conference comes as global efforts to mitigate climate change are on the brink of failure.

"The global contributions to climate change fall far short," said Berthold Kuhn, an expert on sustainable development with the Free University of Berlin.

According to a UN Environment Programme report published last week on the emissions gap, countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required.

The report says that emissions have gone up by 1.5 percent per year in the last decade. In 2018, emissions totaled 55 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is putting the Earth on course to experience a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, rather than 1.5-degree goal set in the Paris Agreement.

This critical situation has prompted the conference, which will last till Dec. 13, to choose "Time for Action" as its motto.

Kuhn believes that the market mechanisms should be well designed to stimulate investment in projects like reforestation and other climate-friendly economic activities. Therefore, COP25 is of great importance to implement Paris Agreement.

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