More than 30,000 people have descended on Madrid for COP25, the major UN climate meeting. Presided over by Chilean environment minister Carolina Schmidt, countries will endeavour to finalise the rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which has the aim of keeping global warming well within 2C.
Originally planned for Santiago, Chile, but relocated to the Spanish capital because of widespread political unrest over inequality and stagnating living conditions, COP25 president Schmidt has warned that it will be impossible for countries to develop properly without tackling climate change.
In this exclusive interview, Schmidt talks about her hopes for the conference, Latin America’s role despite not providing the venue, and how to get countries – including her own – to boost their climate action.
Lorena Guzmán: Did the crisis in Chile and the transfer of COP25 to Madrid change your expectations about the meeting?
Carolina Schmidt: It was very painful having to give up being the venue, but we did not renounce the deep conviction on the relevance of Chileans and the whole world to urgently promoting climate action.
The world is experiencing an unprecedented climate and environmental crisis… The level of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest ever [recorded] and emissions from the energy industry continue to grow at a frantic pace. Antarctica is melting three times faster than a decade ago.
That is why it’s time to act. It’s not a slogan, it’s a necessity. Every measure not taken, every commitment not undertaken, is a step backwards in the fight against climate change. This is a challenge that we assume as president of COP25.
Do you think the change of COP venue has put Latin America at a disadvantage?
We took on the presidency of COP on behalf of Latin America and the Caribbean after Brazil refused an invitation to host the talks last year. Precisely because we are convinced that developing countries are the most affected by climate change: we have many socio-environmental problems that only get worse with global warming. This can only be faced if we work together multilaterally.
Given the recent UN Emissions Gap report and countries’ own commitments to reducing warming, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), what are your expectations about increasing ambition?
The main objective of the COP25 president is to increase ambition, including on mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation. During the conference we will update the Climate Ambition Alliance, involving new actors and new themes, especially the participation of local governments and companies. It is essential to bring new stakeholders to the table. The private, productive and financial sectors, local governments and ministers must come with concrete announcements and collaborations.
Given its current problems, what can we expect of Chile’s climate ambition and the example it has sought to set while presiding over COP25?
The social and environmental crises are two sides of the same coin. You cannot face one without taking care of the other. The climate crisis has a multiplier effect, severely deepening existing social and environmental inequalities. Ambitious climate action needs a fair transition and a special focus on the impact of policies for the most vulnerable people and countries.
At this COP, Chile will show the preliminary draft of its updated NDC. It’s in line with what the scientific world demands in order to combat climate change: a 45 per cent reduction in emissions [by 2030] compared to 2016 levels.
According to [the watchdog] Climate Action Tracker, the national proposal is ambitious and more transparent than the previous one, moving it in the right direction outlined by the Paris Agreement.
We are in the final stages before presenting the draft climate change law to congress, which will set the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and a system of governance and responsibilities that will allow us to meet our national and international commitments.
We will continue working on policies that relate to climate and environment to reduce environmental and social inequalities in the country, accelerating the decarbonisation of our activities.
After the negotiations, what results do you expect with respect to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement that deals with carbon markets?
Increasing ambition is the main theme of COP25. The recent Emissions Gap report reveals the urgency of acting and taking drastic measures. From 2020 and over the next decade we must reduce emissions 7.6 per cent annually to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C.
To meet this, we need efforts from governments, but also cities, companies and investors, and COP25 will be a great opportunity to boost ambition. We will seek to incorporate the private sector into climate action, especially through global carbon market mechanisms, a necessary tool to help make sure actions are implemented.
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