United Nations senior officials and delegates give opening statements at COP25

Katie Ramirez
December 2, 2019

"Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand that fiddled while the planet burned?"

The summit, which moved from Chile following anti-government protests, aims to establish an worldwide strategy to cut greenhouse gases and address the climate crisis.

That involves creating a functioning worldwide emissions-trading system and compensating poor countries for losses they suffer from rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.

Cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases - mostly from burning carbon-based fossil fuels - that have been agreed so far under the Paris deal are not enough to limit temperature rises to a goal of between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Already, average temperatures have increased by about 1C, leaving little room for the more ambitious target to be met. Ahead of the summit's opening, scientists released a number of reports warning that only drastic and unprecedented reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

COP25 in Madrid is the last United Nations climate forum before countries are due to submit their enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the first Paris Agreement implementation cycle in 2020.

Current global efforts to reduce carbon-dioxide emission are not sufficient to meet the goal set in Paris to restrict temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C. He also emphasized the need for "more ambitious national commitments" to reduce emissions-especially from major polluters-and stressed that such commitments should "include a just transition for people whose jobs and livelihoods are affected as we move from the grey to the green economy".

50 Heads of State and government will attend the event and also representatives of the main worldwide organisations.

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Except for the European Union's newly sworn-in leadership, which was due to begin a five-year term by paying a visit to the summit, the rest of the world's largest carbon emitters - the United States, China and India - are sending ministerial or lower-level officials to the meeting. After joining the agreement in 2015, the United States is now in the process of exiting at the request of the current Trump administration. However, that won't be technically completed until November 4, 2020.

There's another delegation from the US, too: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is there with a group of a fifteen Democratic members of Congress.

"We're still in it", Pelosi said. Spain's interim prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said Monday that "only a handful of fanatics deny the evidence" of climate change. And maybe four: "science, again".

"By coming here we want to say to everyone we are still in, the United States is still in", Pelosi told reporters at the talks, flanked by Democratic Congressional representatives.

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

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