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SCIAF join COP 25

Ben Wilson, our Policy Officer, outlines COP 25, a major climate conference taking place in Madrid this December. He, and other SCIAF team members will be attending and keeping supporters and climate activists in the loop.

For the next two weeks, world leaders are meeting in Madrid for the 25th annual UN conference on climate change (COP25). This meeting is a time for countries to come together to review the latest science, hear voices from those most affected by climate change, and move forward on implementing global agreements to tackle the crisis.

SCIAF will be at COP 25 representing our supporters and the people we work with in some of the poorest countries in the world.  We’ll be taking a loud and clear message to world leaders that they must do much more to tackle the Climate Emergency.

These annual conferences are often characterised by complex attempts to build consensus in the face of conflict. One conflict is between developed and developing countries, as nations from Africa, Asia and South America demand climate justice, on the grounds that they are already suffering the consequences of a crisis that they did not cause.

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Conflict also shapes the interplay between the negotiations ‘inside the tent’ and the protests outside. There could be as many as 30,000 people in Madrid with badges to enter the conference venue and participate in negotiations.  But many more thousands will be outside on the streets of Madrid, hoping their cries for action will be heard.

Through each of these battles runs a deeper conflict, between science and politics. Each year, hundreds of scientific reports are produced demonstrating that climate change is happening, that it is caused by human behaviour, and that it will have an increasingly devastating impact on the entire planet. Yet despite this overwhelming scientific evidence, the political will to respond to this crisis remains the biggest barrier to action.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report laying out what needs to happen if we are to avert catastrophic climate change. As the official scientific advisory body to the UN, their report was produced following analysis of over 6,000 other papers, and was contributed to by 91 scientists from 40 different countries. The report was unequivocal: all countries of the world must increase their emissions reductions.

The reality is that we are currently on a warming pathway of 3.5C or more, and at current rates projections show that we would reach 1.5C – - by 2030. A 1.5C increase in average global temperatures will mean different things for different countries of the world. For developing countries, and for millions of people living in poverty in these countries, missing that 1.5C target is literally a matter of life or death.

Global average warming over 1.5C means millions more people exposed to droughts, heat-waves and floods, an irreversible loss of biodiversity, ocean warming that threatens marine life and the people who depend on it, and rising sea levels that can wipe small island states off the face of the earth.

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What this amounts to is nothing short of a climate catastrophe, which will lead to unprecedented levels of climate migration as thousands are forced from their homes to try to find an environment that can support their families.

The failure to respond to the overwhelming scientific evidence is a political failure. It is a failure of global leaders to achieve consensus, a failure of big polluting countries to look past their borders, and to care for future generations.

However, if 2019 has given us anything, it should be hope not despair.

In response to that landmark IPCC report, millions of people across the world have risen up to say “Enough is enough”. In September this year, led by our young people, millions of people all over the world took to the streets to call on their leaders to take immediate action to tackle the climate emergency.

The youth climate march on the 20th September was the largest public demonstration on climate change ever, and throughout the year the issue has rapidly risen up the political agenda and public consciousness.

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This year will be remembered as the year that finally inspired the kind of mass movement needed to transform the political landscape and drive the political action required. People have shown in 2019 that they will not stand back while their leaders fail to respond to the science. They have transformed the political debate.

Next year, the COP will be hosted by the UK government in Glasgow. SCIAF has already started planning for how it will welcome the world to Glasgow, and is busy working with partners in Scotland, and from the UK and across the world to ensure when world leaders come to Glasgow, thousands will be outside the SEC waiting for them. 

Yet this is a crisis that cannot wait one more year. Therefore, as 2019 draws to a close, SCIAF will join thousands of others in Madrid to demand urgent action so that climate justice is delivered for all.