Published 2020-02-19

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COP 25 criticism partly unfair, thinks Björn-Ola Linnér

At the last climate summit in Madrid, COP 25, Mistra researchers were conspicuously present. One was Björn-Ola Linnér, Programme Director of Mistra Geopolitics.

Since 2005, Linnér has attended all but one of the climate summits. He thinks COP 25, the one in 2019, was ‘not bad’, although many people voiced great disappointment afterwards.

The 25th Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been widely criticised, and Linnér says he understands why: the Madrid meeting failed to live up to people’s high expectations.

‘It was no COP to be proud of but still, it wasn’t that bad. The hardest issues were postponed until the next meeting, but that was planned.’

It was nonetheless, in his view, valuable for thousands of people to meet and discuss these key matters, and he says a great deal goes on at these meetings even if they do not always culminate in decisions.

‘The criticism is somewhat unfair. It fosters populist antagonism to the UN system, and often lumps all policy efforts together. We’ve failed to convey how difficult it is to get all the world’s nations to agree on what action to take.’

One good thing, as Linnér points out, was that the countries did not compromise on the issue of emissions trading and measures in other nations — that is, whether the Parties should be able to take shortcuts to fulfilling their national climate plans through emissions trading, for example, or the fact that one country can get credit for implementing climate measures in another. Here, the question was whether Parties where emission reductions take place should be allowed to include them in their climate contributions as well.

‘The main achievement was avoiding dilution of the Paris Agreement by making double counting of emissions reductions permissible.’

And although no increase in climate contributions from the large-scale emitters was achieved at this summit, it was agreed that the Parties will submit updated national climate plans next year, Linnér relates.

‘It’s also positive that efforts to give more prominence to the issue of damage and losses caused by climate change are continuing, despite strong opposition from rich countries like the US. Other good outcomes were the adoption of an updated action plan for gender equality and the fact that many countries are now strengthening the connection between the oceans and the climate in their climate plans.’

Finally, the EU regained its lead in climate work by launching the European Green Deal and (although one country, Poland, did not support the decision) committing itself to climate neutrality by 2050.

‘It’s the first major emitter to have adopted such a target.’

From Mistra Geopolitics’ point of view it was interesting, thinks Linnér, that the spotlight was now directed at the geopolitical challenges to implementation of the Paris Agreement.

On the minus side, in his view, was the fact that countries such as Australia, the US, Brazil and Japan worked against COP 25 being able to take some essential steps forward in the Parties’ ambitions.

‘Their actions mean that, after all, we have to consider it a success that the meeting didn’t take a step back,’ says Linnér.

Text: Thomas Heldmark