My Experience at COP25 in Madrid – an article by SCC member Dean ClarkDecember 20, 2019
On the weekend, I returned home from the United Nations Climate Convention held in Madrid, Spain. I wanted to share my experience and provide some insight in hopes of inspiring more climate change initiatives within Saskatchewan and the other provinces.
First off though, I would like to thank the Government of Saskatchewan for recommending me and the Government of Canada for having accepted me as an official Canadian delegate. It was an extreme honour to represent my company, my province and my country.
A Little Background …
In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted as countries around the world agreed to work together to combat climate change. Since 1995, the Convention of the Parties (COP) has been held annually to make progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At COP, governments, the private sector and a vast collection of other stakeholders, gather for two weeks to share ideas, set the international agenda and negotiate the terms of climate agreements. Four years ago, the landmark Paris Agreement was reached at COP21. This agreement aimed to reduce risks and limit the impacts of climate change using three main strategies: Mitigation, Adaptation & Finance.
At last year’s COP, all rules and guidelines of the Paris Agreement were finalized with the exception of Article 6. This crucial piece of the agreement would allow countries to cooperate in achieving their climate change targets through investments in advanced carbon-friendly technologies and the use of carbon markets. The goal of Article 6 was to adopt strong rules and guidelines that would foster more ambitious climate action.
At this, the 25th anniversary of the COP conventions, negotiators worked tirelessly and ran the convention two days into overtime while trying to finalize the text of Article 6. However, on Dec 15th, it was declared that consensus could not be reached and the task now falls to individual nations to pilot the new markets established in the Paris Agreement. With next year’s convention in Glasgow, there will be heavy pressure placed on the incoming UK COP Presidency to finalize the Article 6 agreement at COP26.
COP25 … The Experience
The size and number of events at the COP convention is quite overwhelming for a first timer. There were nearly 27,000 delegates representing some 200 countries. It often felt like drinking water out of a firehose while trying to digest the mass amount of information.
In Saskatchewan, and across our country, we have very strong and divided views on the seriousness of climate change, what we should be doing about it and how it should be financed. This is certainly true on a global scale as well but these were not items up for debate at this convention. The frustrations heard came from the activists (mostly youth), politicians and celebrity guests suggesting that the slow pace of the talks didn’t match the urgency of climate change that is suggested by science.
Outside these criticisms directed at the formal negotiations, the convention itself consisted of very constructive discussions between the delegates. Business, financial and environmental experts from around the world eagerly shared experiences and best practices for climate change solutions. The structure of the convention created an excellent forum to share information and for collaborative discussions.
What I took away most from the presentations and panels are the economic opportunities that exist for those that are involved in delivering climate change solutions and the risk involved for those that are turning a blind eye. It is apparent that global investors and financial institutions are not standing around waiting for the negotiators to finalize the agreements. I heard numerous experts talk about how the investment world has become a major solution provider in dealing with climate change. Globally, trillions of dollars are being committed to carbon-neutral investment portfolios. In Canada, our largest global investors (pension funds) are following the same trend and increasing low-carbon investments. One Canadian delegate suggested to me that we need to swiftly establish made-in-Canada economic strategies such that these global funds flow towards our country rather than away. I highlight this not to spur a debate on climate change and how it is impacting some major Canadian industries, but rather to point out what the global investment community and large international corporations are saying.
As a Canadian delegate, I was invited to attend social events at the Canadian Ambassador’s private residence and at the Canadian Embassy. There I was able to speak directly with new Environment Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, and his team and express our commitment to deliver economic based climate change solutions within the Western Canadian provinces … more on that in my “What Next” section below.
Madrid is a fantastic city that did an outstanding job of hosting COP25 on short notice. On Oct 31st, only one day after Chile announced that it was cancelling the conference due to a social crisis sweeping the country, Spain offered to host the event. Madrid was a buzz during the convention to the point where even Real Madrid ditched their traditional all-white home jerseys for green ones. The world-famous club soccer team was showing their support for the climate change movement and the COP25 event. I was amongst the 65,000 that saw them defeat struggling Espanyol 2-0.
So … Now What!?
I’ve returned home from the convention with a heightened sense of awareness and knowledge on the structures that exist to support climate change solutions.
We need to continue to invest in Canadian technology and support those businesses that are working to deliver GHG emission reduction solutions. Canada has long been a leader in developing innovative solutions and we need to encourage this now more than ever.
I truly believe that in Canada we can increase ambition through a focus on the delivery of economic based climate change solutions. Knowing that the global investment community is watching, every level of government and private business should be promoting structures that support climate conscious decisions.
I focused my attention on discussing tangible solutions related to our energy management services at Greenwave Innovations. It is estimated that energy efficiency needs to account for more than 40% of the carbon reductions required to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments. An interesting stat suggests that we have over 430,000 Canadians working in the energy efficiency sector … that’s a lot of resources ready to lend a hand.
The best part of an energy efficiency discussion is that a climate change activist, a climate change denier, a politician and a business owner can all agree that using less energy makes good sense. Energy efficiency solutions are the easiest and lowest cost route to create an economic return (utility savings) and an environmental win (GHG emission reductions). This is particularly true within the carbon intense electrical grid regions of Saskatchewan and Alberta. It is agreed that Canada will not reach its Paris Agreement commitments without a significant contribution from energy efficiency.
This may come across as self-serving, but I’m convinced that data-driven, evidence-based solutions are a key element to making informed decisions and quantifying improvements. Consumption data is also the key energy management mechanism that will allow us to properly size renewable energy and storage solutions moving forward.
Regardless of where the climate action funding comes from (i.e. carbon tax or other mechanism), we need to continue to invest in solutions that provide long term and permanent economic returns and GHG emission reductions … truly a win-win climate change strategy.
While this COP will be remembered for the failure to close on Article 6, I felt a great sense of ambition and a desire for collaboration from the global community. We should encourage this mindset and continue to foster this ambition at home.
Dean Clark, BASc
President of Greenwave Innovations