The UN’s climate summit in Madrid—dubbed COP25 in UN jargon—continued into the weekend as countries remained deadlocked on divisive environmental issues, chief of which is how to handle a part of the Paris Agreement known as Article 6 that’s focused on carbon markets. After overrunning its initial deadline Friday, the conference is continuing into the early hours of Sunday.
Sick of this back-and-forth shit among world leaders, climate activists dumped literal horse manure outside of the COP25 venue and staged mock hangings in protest Saturday, according to a Reuters report. Led by the grassroots group Extinction Rebellion, protestors lambasted the international conference’s 25-year history of broken promises and futile efforts to stymie rising carbon emissions, which have continued to hit record highs almost every year.
“Just like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, this COP’s fiddling of carbon accounting and negotiating of Article 6 is not commensurate to the planetary emergency we face,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement.
Article 6 refers to a critical portion of the Paris Agreement on climate change that will regulate a complex carbon market system supplementing each country’s individual emissions-cutting efforts. It’s a central element of the Paris Agreement, the world’s pact to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and ideally keep the heat to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). But the idea of being able to trade carbon pollution has shown little value in actually bringing emissions down in places where markets exist. And its insertion in the Paris Agreement has been fraught and divided member states along financial lines.
Another major fight has been over loss and damage, a mechanism where rich countries that have grown their economies while using the atmosphere as a carbon waste dump would pay poor countries who have done little to cause climate change but are suffering the worst impacts. So far, wealthy nations have balked. And that divide has become more stark at the talks in Madrid where resurgent right-wing nationalist regimes have tried to weaken draft texts.
The U.S., Brazil, Australia, India, and China have been singled out in particular for allegedly stalling negotiations, the Guardian reported, after failing to produce suitably revised plans for checking global temperature rise this century.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the summit “an utter failure” on Twitter Saturday as talks continued going nowhere fast. While there have always been disputes among participating member nations, the rigmarole at this year’s conference is entirely unprecedented, according to Alden Meyer with the Union of Concerned Scientists. He told the BBC:
“I’ve been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991. But never have I seen the almost total disconnect we’ve seen here at COP25 in Madrid between what the science requires and the people of the world demand, and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action.”
During negotiations earlier this week, a separate protest saw young climate activists storm the summit’s main stage to remind world leaders whose futures are at stake should these talks fall through. Without additional regulations on carbon emissions, scientists warn that current national commitments are insufficient to avoid some dangerously serious consequences. And time is of the essence, yet the Madrid talks have so far failed to acknowledge that.