This year’s annual UN climate conference came to a delayed close after two weeks of tough negotiations of complex issues and stronger commitments by various non-government groups
The so-called Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is the supreme decision-making body of this Convention; the COP meets annually since their first meeting in Berlin 1995 at what has now become a widely-publicized event with high stakes for all actors involved due to the urgency and importance of the climate change agenda. All States that are Parties to this Convention are represented at the COP and meet to review the implementation of the Convention, any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and also decide on institutional and administrative arrangements and effective means of implementation. The key task of the COP is to review the national communications and emission inventories submitted by Parties (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs).
Based on this information, the COP assesses the effects of the measures taken by Parties and the progress made in achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention. COP25, this year’s meeting, held in Madrid on 2-13 December, after the Santiago, Chile venue was cancelled due to domestic issues, was seen and promoted as a crucial opportunity for increased ambition and action. The Parties needed to finalise negotiation of the so-called Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules and guidelines on measures of implementation and requirements for NDCs, explained here) so that next year the first NDCs could smoothly come into action – 2020 is the starting year of Paris Agreement implementation (see timeline here and for an interactive tool on the negotiating parties and process see here). The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 by 196 countries and marked a historic commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels (for an interactive tool explaining the Agreement see here).
Nevertheless, there is definite progress happening across many domains and IOE took part in many events which showed promised and positive developments. Business has been particularly active at COP25 and many private sector representatives showcased their ongoing efforts in producing and adopting sustainable technology, sustainable business practices, and partnering with different stakeholders for maximum effect. IOE took part in many events and established new avenues for collaboration as well as gathered useful and practical knowledge for sharing with our members. We worked with the ILO and represented employers globally in some of the new initiatives and work being done in the context of employment for climate action.
Below you can find a list of some of the events IOE took part in, representing business:
5 December – SDG8: Decent Work & Economic Growth: This event discussed progress on and solutions for attaining SDG8 through a panel discussion representing governments, workers, and employers. Robert Marinkovic, IOE Adviser, spoke on the importance of entrepreneurship, SMEs and their particular context, as well as the challenge of informality in the context of a systemic transformation.
8 December – BizMEF Forum, 25 years of COP and business: This event was organized by the Major Economies Business Forum on Energy Security and Climate Change (BizMEF), coordinated by IOE member USCIB. It gathered business leaders and representatives to discuss coordinated action, progress in climate action so far, and particular challenges the private sector is facing as well as priorities for the COP process.
12 December – Climate Action for Jobs Initiative: This high-level event launched the ILO-led Climate Action for Jobs Initiative in collaboration with the with wider UN as well as IOE. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, spoke and expressed his commitment to this project and confirmed the crucial role the private sector can play as an engine of sustainable growth and job creation if the necessary and appropriate enabling environment and institutional support are put in place. Roberto Suárez, IOE Secretary-General, reaffirmed the employers’ commitment towards this goal and announced IOE’s full participation in this Initiative. The full recording of the event can be seen here.
12 December – Skills for a Greener Future Global Report: This event launched the full and final version of the ILO Report on the skills agenda within the context of a sustainable economy. The discussion was led by Vic van Vuuren, ILO Enterprises Department and IOE Secretary-General gave the employers’ view, highlighted the importance of the skills agenda for business and as well as the key elements for efficient progress.
After most of the different parts of the Paris Rulebook were adopted last year at COP24 in Katowice, Poland there were only a handful of issues left to discuss and decide on this year. The most important for business at COP25 was the discussion and adoption of Article 6, which is on carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation on CO2 emissions reduction. It consists of three separate mechanisms for voluntary cooperation towards climate goals, with the overarching aim of raising ambition. Unfortunately, this discussion is political and contentious due to its technical difficulty, there are many implications for international trade, but also different positions on the actual impacts of a new global carbon market. The result was that COP25 did not adopt a final discussion and deferred the discussion to next year. Many have been calling COP25, because of this and other issues, a missed opportunity and a disappointing turn of events in what needed to be a much more ambitious and powerful push towards climate action. For a full and detailed summary of outcomes see here and here. The official decision documents can be found on the UNFCC website.
2020 will be a highly important year for climate action in general (many upcoming events and acceleration of efforts globally, including the entry into force of NDCs), for IOE specifically (IOE Centenary and increased climate action), but also for the UN (75th anniversary and many upcoming Conferences and meetings important for sustainable development). COP26 will be hosted in Glasgow next year, under the presidency of the UK. All of the outstanding issues will have to be dealt with at that meeting. Follow IOE news to stay abreast of important meetings in the future and to follow our engagement in this area.
IOE is preparing a policy paper on employment and climate change which will be coming out shortly so keep an eye out and we look forward to your feedback! We are also preparing a detailed summary of COP25 activities, as well as several shorter brochures on the COP process in general, different initiatives and processes in place of interest to business, and how our members can engage in this agenda. All IOE photos of the event can be viewed here.