COP25 Mandate: The Geopolitics of Mutual Empowerment

COP25 Strategy Brief from Citizens’ Climate Education, the Engage4Climate Network and Resilience Intel

The time between the COP25 (opening today in Madrid) and the COP26 (next November in Glasgow) constitutes an unprecedented moment for creative collaboration in the improvement of human experience and outcomes. During that time, 195 nations must upgrade their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the global climate crisis response.

The work of building a secure and livable future must be informed by an understanding of the natural systems that sustain life. It is no longer the case that anyone can benefit by going slow, by doing or investing less than others. We are now beyond the “fair share” question. The shortest path to future prosperity runs through the work of contributing more than a fair share.


The World as It Is

Climate action is not a zero-sum game. The pie is not finite. It is not made up of money in today’s economic paradigm. The overall opportunity corresponds to the higher value in all areas that comes with building health and resilience in natural systems. The better we do at manifesting and harnessing such efficiencies, the greater the opportunity for all.

As noted in the Earth Day Climate Communiqué in April, and in the outcome of the Oslo Pax Summit on Peace and Climate Change in September, disruption of the climate system is a grave and worsening threat to the security of nation states and particularly of vulnerable populations; the legal and economic structure of our global civilization, and of local communities, will be shaped by our degree of action or inaction.

The three most salient insights we believe all nations need to embrace and make use of are:

  1. There is no way to profit from ignoring the climate emergency. Across the mathematics of a whole economy, and from now into the next generation, the costs of inaction are so extreme as to pose an existential threat to most industries.
  2. National climate action is stronger if it starts from local vision. Local governments, small businesses, communities and regional economies, can provide the innovation, the knowledge and resource-sharing, and optimization needed to speed the transition.
  3. Climate-smart finance is going mainstream, and rapidly expanding. Climate finance is not limited to dedicated public-sector investment; already close to $5.5 trillion has been committed to climate priorities. Now the question is where best to invest it.

Eventually, all finance will be climate-smart, even if by varying degrees. As it stands, green finance is consistently the most growth-capable, job-creating flavor of new investment. Existing investments are being reallocated to build in the benefits of a now recognizable “green premium.”

Across the world, however, structural and fiscal incentives still steer incredible sums of capital and consumer cash to climate-disrupting industries. This remains the case, even as the old idea that “cheap fuel” benefits everyone is quickly being replaced by the recognition that these industries are adding cost and risk to everything we do.


The Science

A quick look at just 5 major science reports from the last 15 months makes clear:

  • Warming above 1.5ºC will be unaffordably destructive for even the richest nations, and global heating is happening faster than expected. (Read the 1.5ºC Report)
  • Our industrial excesses are causing what could be the fastest moving mass extinction in the history of life on Earth: 1 million species could go extinct by the end of this century, and half of all wildlife has already been lost. (Read the IPBES Report)
  • Degradation of terrestrial ecosystems is putting the entire human food system at risk. We have only 30 harvests left until mid-century, when it is expected multiple breadbasket failures will happen simultaneously. (Read the Land Report)
  • Glaciers, watersheds, and ocean ecosystems are all under overwhelming and worsening stress. Indigenous peoples and low-lying coastal communities will face impossible-to-manage risk and damage. (Read the Ocean and Cryosphere Report)
  • National commitments to reduce emissions are not sufficient to avoid global heating of more than 3ºC, let alone 1.5ºC. (Read the Emissions Gap Report)

Both science and our lived experience are telling us that national commitments to climate-smart investment and innovation need to accelerate dramatically. NDC upgrading holds the greatest promise for real and lasting economic development for most countries.

The question at COP25, and certainly throughout 2020, will be:

What strategy for rapid improvement of NDCs will do the most to both help a nation rise above the ongoing global slowdown and secure its position in the climate-smart economy of this century?


Our Agenda

We want to see five core areas of action deployed to achieve rapid, comprehensive improvement of NDCs:

  1. Public participation
  2. Carbon dividends
  3. Climate-smart finance
  4. Ocean and watersheds
  5. Nature-based solutions

1) Public participation in the design and implementation of climate policy and investment is more efficient than exclusion of the public. All of the policy, technology, and finance, at stake in the climate transition, touch everyday experience. There is no more efficient way to design the optimal climate strategy than to build it around the vision people have for their own best future.

2) Carbon dividends offer a model for a strong economy-wide price signal, designed to steer investment toward climate-smart practices, while delivering new income value to most households. By implementing carbon dividend policies at the national level, we can realign incentives while building stronger local economies and reversing the slide toward ever more damaging income inequality.

3) Climate-smart finance builds value for investors and also builds resilience generally. The result is a far higher overall return on investment and a lasting foundation for expanded future prosperity. The latest Resilience Intel estimate of climate-smart finance commitments shows overall funding has increased 54% since last year.

4) Ocean and watersheds are highly vulnerable to worsening ice-melt and by other compounding impacts of global heating. That vulnerability demands we invest in smarter and safer activities upstream, to reduce global heating stress, safeguard the resilience of ecosystems, and stop pollution from reaching the sea and transiting into the water cycle. Ocean-safe upstream investment—including climate-smart regenerative agriculture—protects people and can help avoid climate disruption.

5) Nature-based solutions are deliberate enhancements of natural systems—restoring biomass and ecosystem resilience, drawing down carbon, and protecting wildlife. Nature-based solutions also build efficiencies into the human systems they are part of—making it easier to protect human health, safeguard natural capital, and build prosperity.


The COP25 Mandate

The 25th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change must do more than make rules for emissions trading or reaffirm the accounting standard of ‘no double-counting’.

  1. The COP25 must, as Chile’s Presidency has promised, integrate the science of the IPCC’s special reports on the dangers of global heating above 1.5ºC, land use and terrestrial ecosystems, and the ocean and cryosphere, into the upgrading of national and collaborative climate action.
  2. The COP25 must create new opportunities for engagement of communities, citizens, local governments, and collaborative networks, in the design and implementation of climate policy.
  3. The COP25 must serve as a foundation for the integration of climate intelligence into all financial decision-making at all levels, across whole economies—facilitating unprecedented innovation in technology, business models, and metrics.

By November 2020, we will need to see mainstream financial institutions harnessing the trillions of dollars already committed to climate-aligned investment, with national, provincial and local governments, steering incentives toward that opportunity. All people have an inherent right to an undisrupted climate. We are gathered here in Madrid to make sure our collective future honors that right.

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