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With youth climate activists like Greta Thunberg, Leah Namugerwa, Ridhima Pandey, Xiye Bastida taking the centre stage, I thought this year’s COP, aka COP25, would finally address critical climate issues in a meaningful way. Did my wish come true, or was history doomed to repeat itself? Well, I think it is safe to say that everyone walked away scratching their heads. 

First, let us take a step back. if you aren’t familiar with COP, they are organised by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Their main objective is to regulate man-made greenhouse gas emissions to prevent climate change. They do so through Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings, by setting non-binding targets for member countries.  You may have heard of the Kyoto Protocol (1997), Montreal Protocol (2005) and the Paris Agreement (2015). So far, there have been 25 COP meetings and all of them have largely been ineffective because of its non-enforcement mechanisms. 

How did 2019’s COP turn out then? 2 weeks of COP25 can be roughly summarised in 3 points:  

  1. Developed countries refusing to make any meaningful investment
  2. Developing countries criticised for not being ambitious enough with their targets
  3. Overuse of passive terminology to acknowledge major issues – “we need to address”, “strongly encourage”, “urges to scale up”, etc. 

An optimist would say COP25 could have been worse and we should look forward to COP26 in Glasgow on June 2020. A pessimist would agree the world is on reverse gear and we are all moving backwards. I think, all our world leaders are procrastinating, waiting until it is too late. Everyone is content with pointing fingers at each other. Developed nations are asking developing nations to be ambitious, while simultaneously refusing to invest in climate change adaptation and mitigation. In a time where we all need to work together, we couldn’t be more divided.  

I look back at 2019 and we have had a major climate disaster for every single month of 2019. Starting with floods in Argentina and Uruguay in January and ending with forest fires in Australia in December. Climate catastrophes could become an unwanted trend. Knowing what we know, can we afford to be passive? As we step into 2020, will we see countries be more proactive to solve the problem of climate change? One thing is certain though, if UNFCC conferences are going to make an impact, they need to stop trying to please everyone.