Hope or disaster at stake in Madrid climate talks

The decisions taken at climate change talks that started on December 2 in Madrid will define whether we take a path towards hope or a path towards disaster, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

At a buzzing and colorful conference center in the Spanish capital the 25th Conference of the Parties, got underway, with policymakers pledging to do their part to assure it as a success. And many warned of the dire consequences of inaction at a conference that includes Siemens Gamesa among its sponsors.

“We stand at a critical juncture. One path is of surrender, where we have sleepwalked past the point of no return, jeopardizing the health and safety of everyone on this planet,” said Guterrres at the inauguration event. “We must show that we have the political will not to take this path and not to betray the people,” he added.

His comments were echoed by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, whose country has led the presidency of the COP25 despite its last-minute transfer to Madrid. He left a rousing message via video, where he concluded: “The time for diagnostics is over. The time for action is now.”

Guterres also went on to say that the commitments made at the Paris Agreement in 2016 were imperative to be met, but that governments must pledge in Madrid to go further if we were to avoid a climate disaster.

“We are still waiting to see transformative measures from the main emitters,” he said, referring to the G20 countries, which together account for 74% of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

The busy business center close to Madrid’s airport was filled with national stands presenting their own projects and commitments towards climate change, and delegates from the 196 countries involved in the talks. They were joined by other stakeholders in society, including Siemens Gamesa CEO Markus Tacke.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez also used the inauguration to make a call on politicians to listen to growing concerns from society. “There is a generation of young people who are calling for change. Our duty is to listen to them,” he said.

He went on to say that Europe must lead the way through a newly proposed European Green Deal which aims to see the EU achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Sánchez said the EU must be a leader given it was the first region to see an industrial revolution which sparked surging consumption in fossil fuels.

Countries were all urged to unite in Madrid to commit more towards combating climate change. COP25 Chairman Carolina Schmidt said: “Only acting together can we face the biggest challenge that we face on the planet.”