For two weeks in December, delegates from across the world met in Madrid for the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25). Despite being set against a backdrop of growing public demand for immediate climate action, this meeting saw disappointing progress. Only 80 nations committed to increasing ambition in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) i.e. commitments to the Paris Agreement, and several countries with high emissions but weak NDCs gave no indication of change.
A key focus of COP25 was Article 6 on carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation, the last remaining unresolved part of the Paris Agreement. Disagreement over the terms of Article 6 continued. There were two major sticking points: Brazil’s demand to allow double-counting of carbon offsets (i.e. if a country paid for Brazil to preserve forest, both countries could count this towards emission reductions), and the desire of countries such as China and India to carry-over carbon offset units from the Kyoto protocol. Despite extending the meeting by two days, the terms of Article 6 were not finalised.
Although this stalled progress, it was a better outcome than adopting Article 6 in its current state, which omits critical components on social and biodiversity safeguards. For example, the clause on human rights has been weakened, and a poor definition of forests favours planting of monocultures over restoration of native ecosystems.
We must close carbon accounting loopholes and ensure that Article 6 contains the appropriate safeguards. However, perhaps an even greater challenge for COP26 in November 2020 will be moving negotiations towards investment in robust, evidence-based NbS designed to provide benefits for both people and nature.