COP25: achieve carbon neutrality

In Madrid, Spain, on December 2nd the 25th round of international negotiations of the Parties to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) has opened. The COP25 conference of the parties gathered more than 25,000 participants from nearly 200 countries. These negotiations are expected to complete the adoption of the rules of the Paris Agreement, which comes into force in 2020. Russian non-governmental organizations have issued a Statement on their expectations from the negotiations and from national climate actions.

This is the last stage of decision-making on the instruments and mechanisms for the functioning of the Paris agreement (PA). The parties should agree on the financial mechanisms of the PA, which will replace the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol.

The organization was quite complicated. Initially, COP25 were to be held in Brazil, but newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro refused to hold the negotiations. Chole became the new host, but due to the unstable situation in the country the venue had to be moved. In emergency circumstances, Spain has offered to host COP25 in Madrid and fully provided the necessary infrastructure in a month before the event.

Last year, at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, the Parties managed to adopt the most part of the rules of the Paris agreement, but some mechanisms left unagreed. One of the most difficult tasks now is to determine how the carbon market regulated by Article 6 of the PA will function properly. These mechanisms include both cooperation between countries to reduce greenhouse gases and the development of non-market mechanisms which is too complex issue for rapid decision-making. Public organizations and movements are concerned about how emissions will accounted, there is a fear that double counting can be applied, then we will not have to talk about objective data. What does it mean? For example, if a plane flies from point A to point B, both states will be responsible for emissions or none, which means that we will not know the total amount of greenhouse gases.

The Russian Social Ecological Union opposes the transfer of emission reduction units between countries, as this decision replaces direct actions to reduce emissions with measures in the field of energy. The NGO-community is also concerned about a number of other issues. How to ensure that market mechanisms do not harm the environment, climate objectives and well-being of the population? What will prompt the largest polluter countries to step up in 2020 to prevent negative impacts from climate change?

The Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage (WIM) is an important document, for the implementation of which the Parties should prepare. It should provide support to developing countries in preventing and minimizing the loss and damage associated with climate change, as well as contribute to addressing climate refugees.

Ahead of COP25, 2 new IPCC reports were released: on climate change and land (IPCC SRCCL) and on oceans and cryosphere (IPCC SROCC). Together with the 1.5 degree report (IPCC SR15), these reviews confirm that all countries will be affected by climate change without any exceptions, but the greatest burden of negative impacts will primarily fall on developing island or coastal states and countries in arid regions.

Raising Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce GHG emissions and actually delivering on those promises is a key aspect in the fight against global climate crisis. The current level of commitment leads us to a scenario of global temperature rising by 3.5 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century. New reports by the IPCC show that countries are not taking enough action. In order to achieve the 1.5 degree scenario, and taking into account the recommendations of the recently released "Emission Gap Report", countries should gradually reduce their emissions between 2020 and 2030 by 7.6% per year. It is necessary that all parties to the PA, especially the largest polluters, make clear commitments to reduce emissions, set new ambitious goals. It is important to understand clearly what are the next steps in the field of climate to be taken by all Parties to the Agreement; the NDCs should be as transparent as possible and involve all the stakeholders. Parties should set goals that are based on the rapid achievement of the 1.5 degree scenario, take into account the key role of ecosystems, include analysis and compensation of social and economic risks, and exclude the introduction of false solutions. Among other things, it is necessary to ensure an absolute transparency of each country's emissions accounting, preventing the double accounting of GHG. According to António Guterres, each state, especially those who responsible for the most significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, should update their NDCs to be much more ambitious, develop a plan to reduce the CO2-equivalent for individual sectors (construction, agriculture, transport, etc.) and a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

"We must finally demonstrate that we are serious in our commitment to stop the war against nature – that we have the political will to reach carbon neutrality by 2050," Guterres said at the COP25 opening ceremony.

Russia was one of the last major polluter countries to ratify the Paris Agreement. Although the state signed the agreement back in 2016, it announced the ratification of the PA only this year at the UN Climate summit in New York. Despite that fact, Russia’s NDC remain unchanged and it seems that the country does not plan to set more ambitious goals. The stated commitment of GHG reduction have actually been achieved without much affort due to Parestroika. Country has quite rapidly reduced emissions by 20-15% from the level of 1990. However, joined the PA, Russia will need to set a new goal.

The Russian Social Ecological Union (Friends of the Earth Russia) approves Russia's ratification of the Paris Agreement and calls for a revision of the NDCs to 50% from 1990 without taking into account forest uptake. In the Statement of Russian NGOs to COP25 we call on Russia:

  • to adopt a separate target for carbon sequestration by forest ecosystems, to include unrecorded and unmanaged forests in the accounting of sequestration, to exclude intact and especially valuable territories from economic use;
  • to immediately adopt a National Low Carbon Strategy up to 2050, including the 1.5 degrees scenario, withdrawal from fossil fuel not allowing any increase in nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams in the country energy balance;
  • to adopt the Federal law on “State regulation of emissions...” , including mandatory reporting of companies and regions;
  • to immediately adopt the National Adaptation Plan with the start of action in 2020; to approve the adaptation goals for the sectors of the economy and tasks for the regions;
  • to include climate change actions in the performance rankings of governors.

The Russian Social Ecological Union calls on Russia to take real action in the fight against the climate crisis, which includes measures to reduce and control greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation measures. The current trend towards low-carbon solutions calls into question the stability of the Russian economy, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuel. The trend is confirmed by real actions though. For example, the European Investment Bank stops funding fossil fuel projects starting from 2021.

Representatives of the Climate Secretariat of Russian Social and Ecological Union (Friends of the Earth Russia) are present at COP-25 as NGO-observers.

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