In Madrid, 197 countries will meet from the beginning to the middle of December to the United Nations
Climate Change Conference. What are the topics at the summit?
The Paris Climate Agreement is a shell that needs to become a finished house by next year. The topping-out ceremony was held in Poland last December when they adopted the "Katowice Climate Package". This determines what the countries' climate plans must look like, how they report on their progress, and how the world community can control it. Three major topics are still open:
How to design and control the trading of CO2 allowances by which states or companies can offset their CO2 emissions through climate change projects in other countries.
What should be the aid for poor countries that are already affected by climate change and have corresponding losses and damages?
How and if states are prepared to save even more emissions to limit global warming to 2.0 or 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The Paris Agreement enters into force next year. What should be done by the next stage in 2030?
All countries have given themselves climate plans for ten years. They will have to change their industries, energy production and the lifestyles of their citizens over the period: for example, less coal-fired power plants, gasoline and diesel cars and other agriculture. However, the current plans are not enough to sufficiently mitigate climate change, experts say. In several steps, the UN Climate Change Secretariat therefore wants to monitor not only whether the states implement their plans, but also ensure that they do more.
After nearly 25 years of climate diplomacy, there has finally been a global climate agreement since 2015. Why is it always negotiated?
At the final session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on 12 December 2015, 197 countries adopted the World Climate Treaty. Tears flowed, the diplomats were in the arms. Everyone was relieved that countries are tackling the fight against climate change together. At first, however, the Paris Agreement was only a declaration of intent. It took almost a year for enough countries to ratify the treaty in their national parliaments, which was officially recognized. To this day, the states are struggling to turn the 30-page paper into a concrete, verifiable set of rules. It must be clearly stated how the goal of achieving a global temperature rise well below two degrees, but preferably to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels, should be achieved.
According to researchers, global climate change is progressing much faster than expected. Is not the policy too slow?
Since the nineties, climate change has arrived as a problem in politics. In 1995, the first United Nations Climate Change Conference took place in Berlin. Although there was already a predecessor before the World Climate Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol. However, only a handful of states were members. Now, as of 2020, an agreement will be in force for all, but in almost all countries climate change laws are too lax – even in Germany. Worse yet, the oil, gas and coal projects planned for the next decade alone are enough to break the 1.5-degree target, a UN Environment Program report has stated.
Is not it better to adjust and adapt to climate change now, rather than continuing to try to meet the climate goals?
Already in almost all states, both are happening in parallel: CO2 savings, so-called mitigation, as well as adaptation to climate change. For poorer countries, the UN introduced in 2001 the so-called adjustment fund. The federal government is one of the largest donors. In Germany, the federal government, federal states and cities are concerned with adapting to climate change, for example with coastal protection or through more drinking fountains and green spaces in inner cities. However, according to climate researchers, there will be more and, above all, more intense extreme weather such as storms, heavy rainfall and heat waves. Adaptation will be all the more expensive for taxpayers the more climate change picks up.
There are still many countries that build coal-fired power plants or cut down rainforests over a large area. Can the world climate agreement stop that?
The world climate agreement came about only because the principle of voluntariness applies: States can decide for themselves how much emissions they want to save. If a state does not abide by the agreements, others can not do much more than exercise diplomatic pressure. Countries can also get out at any time, like the US – but with a transitional period of three years. The United Nations – with or without world climate agreement – can not prevent states like Brazil from cutting down their rainforests. The international community can only try to convince Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that it will be better for the country if the forest stops – for example, by offering more financial aid or better sales markets for Brazilian products.
How important are the Federal Government and Chancellor Angela Merkel for the negotiations, and who is traveling from Germany to the summit?
The German delegation enjoys a good reputation as a mediator in many countries and is part of the coalition of ambitious people who are working for a strong agreement. However, the reputation is increasingly scratched, because Germany does not meet its climate targets and has done little in their own country so far (An assessment of scientists to the Climate Package of the Federal Government read here). Traditionally, the Federal Environment and Development Ministries are responsible for the climate summits.
Svenja Schulze (SPD) is definitely going to Madrid with her staff. Gerd Müller himself will not arrive and sends a smaller staff. The CSU politician has long been campaigning for the conference to be held only once every two years with a high level of political participation. Only the experts should meet each year.
In the second week, the heads of state and government travel each year. If there is no major crisis in their own country, Chancellor Angela Merkel should again speak to the UN climate diplomats.
Where and when do the heads of state and government meet at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in 2020?
The next Climate Summit will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, in one year. Whether Britain is still a member of the EU, is still in the stars. Just as the question of whether the world's most powerful climate denouncer, Donald Trump, will still be President of the United States – voted there on 3 November – will be a week before the scheduled start of COP26 – the 26th UN Climate Change Conference.