Solvatten at COP25 in Madrid

Monday, December 16, 2019

It is a crisp evening in the streets of Madrid. Thousands of people from around the world are here, lobbying governments and decision-makers to turn their pledges on climate change adaptation into urgent action.

The crowd is less than five kilometers from the UN Climate Change Conference –COP 25– where government representatives, corporate persons and a wide range of stakeholders, including Solvatten, are gathering.

2019 a State of Emergency
This year has been a tipping point in public opinion. Global movements such as Fridays for Future, with the iconized Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, have stood alongside indigenous and environmental campaigners urging world leaders to take responsibility for the ecological crisis.

The evidence could not be clearer. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, the IPCC, has warned that GHG emissions should drop by 7.6% yearly until 2030. Failing to do so means there’s no chance of stopping the rise of 1.5 °C leading to catastrophic and unprecedented consequences. Yet, we are going in the reverse direction.

Coal use has declined but gas is taking off. The booming gas industry is keeping us at the pace of GHG emissions increase, above 0.6%, according to a UNEP report. 

Climate Justice and the Carbon Market
The inequalities of climate change effects, on those less responsible for generating carbon emissions, have been addressed since the first Climate Change Conferences. The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, which came into force in 2005, established that the global market needed trading mechanisms to regulate carbon emissions.

The protocol outlined a mechanism whereby carbon emitters would compensate the least developed countries by buying carbon credits from them. Poor countries would generate these credits by reforestation or using renewable energy systems.

Global North and Global South Coordination
Creating resilience to climate change should be an imperative for everyone, but particularly for those living in the North, who know first-hand the vulnerabilities, communities face in the South. This is the case for Swedish enterprise Solvatten, solar water treatment and heating system created for those. Solvatten collaborates in partnership with development projects to help them leverage their actions for sustainable development such as reforestation, medical care, micro-financing, and women entrepreneurship.  Over the years, Solvatten has experienced the spectacular results of these projects but also their urgent need for financial support in their initial stages. 

COP 25, Article 6 and Carbon Markets
This COP all eyes have been on article 6 of the Paris agreement, which should set the rules whereby carbon markets could be regulated. Clarifying article 6 was key to the success of this conference, erasing some opacity based on two uncertainties: the value of carbon credits and the double counting. 

The first uncertainty raises the issue of how carbon credits could be easily devalued by wealthy countries, by buying large quantities of credits thus preventing them from implementing policies to decarbonize their economies. The second uncertainty, double accounting, consists of double claiming of emission reductions among parties, both by the seller and the buyer. These failures in carbon markets would result in an increase in global emissions as Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, points out.

A Roadmap for 2020
The outcome of this COP25 is still unsure. The Paris Agreement set up goals that lay out a clear roadmap for scaling up decarbonization. One of these goals is the non-market approach introduced in article 6. In-kind donor approaches such as subsidizing solar water technology if trees are planted or children are vaccinated [some of Solvatten in-kind collaborations] are examples of non-market strategies still needing to be clarified in article 6 and, this was one of the main expectations for COP25.

The resistance of some big emitters and lack of consensus in the EU have left this expectation again, up in the air. Despite, some bittersweet feelings, as UN Secretary-General Gutierrez pointed out, this COP25 has been critical in showing who is stepping up and who is not. Time will tell, but we cannot waste it. Are you in?

Author: Jordi Albacete