Credit: WMO

Critical climate talks kicked off as the world faces the warmest decade on record

The world’s Climate Change conference (Cop25) has called world leaders to make serious progress on climate action with the new carbon market initiative and enhanced national contributions

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed while speaking at the opening ceremony of COP25 that will run until Dec 13 that the conference must convey to the world a firm determination to change course.

“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,” he said.

António Guterres reminded COP25 delegates that the key objective of the conference was to reach “progress on key items”, notably on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement relating to carbon markets and to boost ambition in preparation for new and revised national climate action plans due next year.

“To put a price on carbon is vital if we are to have any chance of limiting global temperature rise and avoiding runaway climate change. 

Credit: UNFCCC

The COP is also to advance work related to capacity-building, deforestation, indigenous peoples, cities, finance, technology, gender and more.

And it must complete several technical matters to achieve the full operationalization of the transparency framework under the Paris Agreement.

The UN Chief said he expected all governments to commit to review their national climate action plans – Nationally Determined Contributions or “NDCs” – with the “necessary” ambition to tackle the climate emergency in the course of the coming 12 months up to COP26, the date by which governments need to submit updated and enhanced plans.

And he called on governments to ensure that at least USD 100 billion a year is available to developing countries for measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build resilience to climate change.

The Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Hoesung Lee, pointed to the economic benefits of more ambitious climate action, which could generate opportunities for investment in innovation.

These investments would generate powerful benefits spilling over to all sectors of society and the economy, making them cleaner, healthier and more resilient, he said.

Earlier in the day, Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s Environment Minister, was formally elected President of the COP.

She reminded delegates that work needed to be taken forward at COP25 which can then be captured in improved national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement next year.

“We need to make new and more ambitious commitments which include all of the aspects of climate action: mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation. The main vehicle to stimulate more ambition are the Nationally Determined Contributions,” she said.

In his speech at the opening, Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, underlined the importance of women in climate action. 

Mr. Sanchez celebrated the memory of an American woman scientist who back in 1856 was the first to identify CO2 warming effect.

“I wanted to start by evoking the memory of Eunice Foote for two reasons: first, to rescue her memory, and the memory of so many other women scientists, from the injustice of oblivion. Second, to remind everyone that it has been a long time since science started warning us about climate change.

“This double paradox is an invitation to reflect. For so many decades, progress has been conceived without involving half of humanity, and at the same time, the notion of progress has not taken into account the physical limits that make human life viable on our planet,” he said.

Credit: WMO

The conference comes when the world is reported to face the warmest decade on record.

The World Meteorological Organization has released the State of the Global Climate 2019, citing that the year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities, with the average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods being almost certain to be the highest on record and the year of 2019 alone being on course to be the second or third warmest year on record.

The global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was already about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period and the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. 

CO2, it said, lasts in the atmosphere for centuries and the ocean for even longer, thus locking in climate change.

The WMO has also detected that sea level rise has accelerated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993 because of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

The ocean, which acts as a buffer by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, is paying a heavy price, it said.

Ocean heat is at record levels and there have been widespread marine heatwaves. Sea water is 26 percent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era and vital marine ecosystems are being degraded, the organisation noted in its latest report.

The daily Arctic sea-ice extent minimum in September 2019 was the second lowest in the satellite record and October has seen further record low extents. In Antarctica, 2019 saw record low ice extents in some months.

“If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target.”

“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and “abnormal” weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate related risks hit hard. Heatwaves and floods which used to be “once in a century” events are becoming more regular occurrences,” said Mr Taalas.

Mr Taalas added that one of the main impacts of climate change is more erratic rainfall patterns. This poses a threat to crop yields and, combined with population increase, will mean considerable food security challenges for vulnerable countries in the future.

The provisional State of the Climate report provides an authoritative source of information for the U.N. climate change negotiations, known as CoP25, which take place in Madrid from 2 to 13 December. It complements the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The final Statement on the State of the Climate with complete 2019 data will be published in March 2020.

Credit: UNFCCC

Key messages:

*2019 is on course to be the 2nd or 3rd warmest year on record and concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels. 

*Average temperatures for 10-year (2010-2019) period set to be the highest on record. 

*Global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was about 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period. 

*Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. 

The full report is available at