A collective failure
The annual United Nations climate conference, COP25 in Madrid was the longest on record when it concluded on Sunday, instead of Friday, after more than a fortnight of fraught negotiations. Close to 27,000 delegates in the Spanish capital had come together to finalise the "rulebook" of the Paris Agreement—the operating manual needed when it takes effect in 2020—by settling on rules for carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation under "Article 6" of the deal. With the purpose of sending a message of intent, signalling to the wider world that the UN climate process remains relevant and that it recognises the widening gap between current progress and global goals to limit warming, little condensed from the efforts thus made. The massive protest march through the Spanish capital and the presence of adolescent climate activist Greta Thunberg, who took a transatlantic journey by sail just in time to make several high-profile appearances in the COP25 conference halls betrayed the prevailing disconnect in the light of which, the lack of success of the climate conference could be understood. The outcome of the summit is that the talks could not reach consensus in many areas, due to which, decisions have been deferred until next year. While bigger nations and the more well-off nations are better equipped to brave the onslaught of climate change, it is the small island states that are threatened for survival and that have been repeatedly stressing the destructive impact of climate change occurring in the forms of rising sea level, fiercer storms, floods and droughts being more frequent and causing devastation. Bush fires in Australia and extreme weather around the world in recent times are sufficient evidence to signal the alarm of a growing climate emergency but as matters did turn out, the international conference was marked by squabbling and yielded little progress despite protests. The partial admission that carbon-cutting targets are too weak, few concrete plans to strengthen them in line with the Paris agreement have been of little real impact. The need of the hour is to bridge the gap between greenhouse gas targets set in 2015 in Paris and scientific advice, according to which, much deeper cuts are needed. Current targets would put the world on track for 3C of warming, which scientists say would ravage coastal cities and destroy agriculture over swathes of the globe. Strong public and political pressure may be needed but implementation is a different ball game altogether. Foe developing countries being held for emissions, a country cannot be stopped from seeking to progress, but charting a way forward individually by countries and stressing on sustainable living is a pragmatic first step.