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Key messages from the UN climate change conference

15 January 2020

ICE’s Davide Stronati was attending COP25 as chair of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) Committee on Engineering and the Environment. This was Davide’s first time attending a COP meeting and in this blog article, he presents four of the key messages which he gathered from the event.

Key messages from the UN climate change conference
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The UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 (2 – 13 December 2019) was held in Madrid but under the Presidency of the Government of Chile and those assembled convened to take the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process.

Following agreement on the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement at COP 24 in 2018, a key objective was to complete several matters with respect to the full implementations of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

1. The transition has to be just

Moving to a low carbon economy is largely thought of as a global economic and technological matter. But it is also a social one where human behaviours will need to be leveraged to achieve the full potential of the transition. The protection of workers linked to the fossil fuel industry will also need careful consideration to avoid widespread discontent.

2. COP25 is bigger and more complex than you think

According to the provisional list by the UNFCCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) there was an expected grand total of 26,706 participants registered for COP25: 13,643 people representing specific parties, 9,987 from observer organisations – such as scientists, business groups and various non-governmental organisations – and 3,076 journalists. The country with the most delegates was Côte d’Ivoire with 348; Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) second with 293; then Spain with 172 delegates and Brazil with 168.

Despite the United States’ recent decision to start the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, its delegation for COP25 (78 people) is much larger than at COP24 (48) and it's the largest since the Paris COP itself in 2015 (124).

In Europe, the UK’s (48 people) is similar in size to last year’s (52). Both France and Germany (124 and 102 people, respectively). There are two parties which do not have any delegates on the UNFCCC list this year – Bolivia and San Marino.

3. Big finance is coming

I forgot the number of times I heard the words billion and trillion of whichever currency we were referring to, whether it was a New Green Deal from the European Union or Pension Funds from across the world. The world of finance is also turning away from fossil fuels; energy companies are continuing to write down the value of oil and gas assets whilst the value of renewables is on the rise.

4. Engineers get ready!

From next year’s COP26 in Glasgow, engineers will be asked to play an ever bigger role to take action on mitigation and adaptation solutions. Yes, climate science will be discussed at these conferences, but I envisage solutions and collaborations will be discussed by parties in much more detail. Climate Dioxide Removal is on the table too – what in the past was called geo-engineering or paraphrased as climate altering technologies will take an important role among the suite of solutions we need to think of to reverse the still increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In July ICE signed up in support of action to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies we are facing, setting a commitment to strengthen our working practices and creating complete engineering outcomes that have more positive impacts on the world around us.

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  • Davide Stronati, Chair of the Committee of Engineering & Environment at World Federation of Engineering Organisations