COP25: Injection Of Youth Please

By Lawrence Iu 17 January, 2020

What were the key breakthroughs? How can youths take action? Iu from Civic Exchange highlights key takeaways from his time at COP25

COP25 made little progress - countries cannot agree on how to establish a carbon trading mechanism, timelines for national pledges are too long & funding for vulnerable countries is lacking
Youth are allowed to engage with different stakeholders & directly talk to national leaders, yet 'Actions', a.k.a protests, were not so lucky - 200 activists were pushed outside by security guards
Outside COP, existing social structures hinder young people’s capacity to lead change - governments should instead view climate action as an opportunity to address youth priorities

Over two weeks of international climate negotiations at COP25 in Madrid ended in mid-December 2019. Unfortunately, due to low ambition and a slow pace, little progress was made.

What is COP25?

COP25 is the 25th annual conference held by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. These conferences create a cooperative space for states and other stakeholders to coordinate international action targeting climate change.

What were the key outcomes?

Although states recognised that more rigorous carbon targets are needed globally, many onlookers regarded COP25 as a failure, as few countries came up with new targets, and consensus about a global carbon market proved elusive. Here is the quick review of key outcomes:

What was decided:

  • The Gender Action Plan, which will guarantee the involvement of women in the implementation of previously made decisions and the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the UN system. In addition, it has been adopted to include a reference to human rights!
  • A (weak) call for higher ambitions in 2020, as only 80 out of 195 countries have presented plans to enhance their climate pledges next year.
  • Both IPCC reports (Special Report on Climate Change and Land & Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate) should be taken into account in future decisions.

What’s missing:

  • Carbon trading mechanisms: a global CO2 market (Article 6) and market mechanisms were integral parts of the Paris Agreement, and this COP was a timely opportunity to establish the emissions reduction scheme. The difficulties lie in “text” avoiding certificate “double counting”, technical issues, and ensuring overall emissions reductions. The draft texts from last year’s negotiations can be used as a basis for future talks, so countries will not have to start from scratch. However, none of these texts has reached consensus.
  • Common timelines for NDCs: Under the Paris Agreement, countries submitted climate pledges, and these initial pledges all begin in 2020. However, they cover a variety of time periods, from five to 15 years. Five-year time frames will avoid lacking in low ambition.
  • Funding: More funding is needed for the most vulnerable countries.

2020 will be the year when countries submit new emissions reduction commitments

2020 will be the year when countries submit new emissions reduction commitments. COP26 will therefore be important for building momentum and advancing implementation. With pressure mounting for a more comprehensive agreement, hopefully, the urgency of the climate crisis will set the stage for more cooperation and ambition this year.

The youth are part of the solution

This year, parties will officially submit their climate action plan for the next 5-10 years and their mid-century targets. The youth should be involved in setting climate policy as it is today’s young people who will be taking action between now and 2050 and who will face the consequences.

COP is a great opportunity to allow the youth to engage with different stakeholders from all backgrounds…


…I also received a chance to talk to the EU Presidency on NDCs & Youth

Most of the current youth activities share common core values: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future as well as helping to shape and to enact responsible environmental and climate policies around the globe. COP is a great opportunity to allow the youth to engage with different stakeholders from all backgrounds. The youth can voice their concerns directly to country leaders regarding national policies, climate change plans and NDCs, demanding that their needs and those of future generations be taken into account in these policies. I also received a chance to talk to the EU Presidency and the COP25 Chilean Presidency in person to discuss NDCs and Youth.

In addition, YOUNGO is one of the nine constituencies representing the formulation of Civil Society within UN Climate Change processes. More precisely, YOUNGO is not a formal organisation, but rather a platform that operates without paid staff. Communication with the UNFCCC secretariat is carried out by a team of volunteers, two focal points and a bottomlining team that provides logistical guidance and support.

Other civil society activities, including demonstrations and other protests, are called “actions” at the COP. These are allowed as long as they are registered in advance. However, actions still face obstacles inside the COP, because not all actions are allowed.

For example, an action organised by the international NGO network, CAN, took place. It addressed the weak ongoing negotiations and called for more ambitious climate policies. Despite the rejection by the organisers, the protest was still carried out. More than 300 peoples took part, and about 200 were pushed outside by security guards after a short time. They had to stand in the cold for more than two hours and no NGO member was allowed to enter the conference for the rest of the day. Many complained about a shrinking civil society space.

Outside COP, existing social, economic & political structures hinder young people’s capacity to lead change

Outside the COP, existing social, economic and political structures hinder young people’s capacity to lead change and make positive contributions to the global community’s effort in dealing with environmental degradation, security threats, and climate change. For example, students may face serious consequences, if they host climate strikes in some Asian countries. These challenges require collective solutions with an inclusionary approach that gathers inputs and involves all stakeholders in their development and implementation.

The govt should view climate action as a meaningful opportunity to address youth priorities

The government should view climate action as a meaningful opportunity to address youth priorities in their domestic policy, providing equitable support – both financial and technical – towards youth groups who are leading the change to restore our ecosystems, and to avert and reverse environmental loss and damage in sustainable development and local climate action. Together, the global community can achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and build a world where no one is left behind.

Further Reading

  • COP21: 5 Takeaways from Paris – The Paris Agreement signals that the threat is real. Time is running out, especially for water. Inaction means growing costs and with financial risks across sectors also on the rise, CWR’s Thieriot shares key takeaways from COP21
  • COP21: What Paris Means For China – All eyes are on China, the largest contributor to global emissions as it transitions to a low carbon future. See what Paris means for China from carbon trading, peak emissions to carbon-intensive industries
  • I Want You To Panic – As we edge closer to a climate crisis, Thanos from Avengers Endgame doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. Hear what China Water Risk’s Woody Chan has to say for his generation & children everywhere
  • Empowering Youth To Face Climate Change – Youths face great barriers to land a job or start their own initiatives in the field of climate change but Youth Climate Leaders is aiming to change that. Find out more from their Cassia Moraes & Fernanda Matsuoka
  • Youth & Water – 3 Key Takeaways from Egypt & Stockholm – China Water Risk intern Alex Whitebrook shares key takeaways from his recent trips for the World Youth Parliament for Water. See what’s on their minds

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Lawrence Iu
Author: Lawrence Iu
Lawrence Iu is an associate researcher of Civic Exchange and leads research and engagement projects with a focus on climate change modelling and carbon neutrality policy issues. Mr Iu previously worked in a multinational corporation and a higher institution, where he coordinated environmental sustainability and occupational health & safety projects across Asia Pacific and led emerging technology management, circular economy and green chemistry research. He was awarded two research grants for enhancing process hazard assessment. Mr Iu holds a Master of Philosophy in Environmental Engineering, a Master of Science in Environmental Science and Management and a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical and Bioproduct Engineering from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
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