An exhausting international negotiation session on climate change concluded Sunday with an agreement among countries to take on more ambitious goals. That agreement, however, failed to resolve the main issues on the table, like creating rules for trading carbon emissions credits and helping developing countries pay for climate damages.
Almost 200 countries at the two-week United Nations meeting known as COP25 did approve a statement calling on them to do more to fight climate change by next year, when the next round of national commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement are due.
But delegates could hardly agree on much else at the longest meeting in the 25-year history of these annual climate talks, which overshot its scheduled end by more than 40 hours.
The negotiations this year were meant to nail down the outstanding issues in implementing the Paris climate agreement, but they came at an especially difficult time for many of the countries at the table. Countries like Chile and France are facing civil unrest back home. The United Kingdom held a general election during the talks. And India faces a slowing economy.
One of the toughest negotiations was over a section of the Paris climate agreement known as Article 6 that governs international carbon markets.
Done right, it could serve as a vehicle for countries to adopt more ambitious goals for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by allowing them to pay for reductions in emissions where they are most effective, which may not be inside their own borders. But done poorly, such a system could delay — or even reverse — progress in fighting climate change. Badly designed credits could fail to deliver the promised emissions cuts, or accounting loopholes could lead to double counting of credits.
Countries came to the table with different priorities for how to structure these markets, and the rules they should use, but almost all of them left disappointed that the issue was once again left unsettled. “Regretfully we couldn’t get to an agreement on this important article,” said Carolina Schmidt, president of the COP.