thing. Expec­ta­tions are, in the end, dis­ap­point­ed every year. UN cli­mate sum­mits are not nor­mal­ly cheer­ful occa­sions. But the dis­ap­point­ment this year is espe­cial­ly strong. COP in Madrid was meant to send out a strong mes­sage back­ing ambi­tious mea­sures – a mes­sage reflect­ing the urgency and grav­i­ty of the com­ing dis­as­ter as well as the fact that the world is lit­er­al­ly burn­ing. There were meant to have been tougher tar­gets, more mon­ey and con­crete regulations.

After very much exhaus­tive nego­ti­a­tion all that could be achieved was the soft­est pos­si­ble slushy con­sen­sus. Even so, this man­aged to end talk of going back on even the Paris goals and the con­clu­sion of the inter­na­tion­al community’s 25th cli­mate con­fer­ence was a “yes, you’re right, we need more ambi­tious goals and will set them next year”. NEXT YEAR!

So much for the dis­ap­point­ment. Now for the hope. The COP25 res­o­lu­tions at least show that most coun­tries are firm­ly behind the Paris goals and ready for more ambi­tious pro­pos­als, and that envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, human rights and human life all count for more than mon­ey; it was call­ing this into ques­tion that proved to be a deal-break­er. The stum­bling-blocks and dis­trac­tions put in the way of the nego­ti­a­tions by the fos­sil fuel-pro­duc­ing pow­ers were shown to be the last ves­tiges of resis­tance – more ambi­tious goals must and will be dis­cussed at the next COP.


Young people are making their voices heard

Here we sum­marise how our last two weeks have looked. They took us from hope to dis­ap­point­ment and back again — COP25 showed in any case that young peo­ple in the past year have become impos­si­ble to ignore. Where gov­ern­ments have per­sist­ed in obsti­nate think­ing based around nation-states, NGOs have con­sid­ered human­i­ty as a whole and have more wind in their sails than ever before.

This COP we real­ly want­ed to bring young peo­ple all over Europe togeth­er. If EU mem­bers go into the nego­ti­a­tions with a unit­ed voice, youth organ­i­sa­tions need to do so too. One of the first results of our effort was an open let­ter to the new EU Com­mis­sion which demands much greater effort (quan­ti­fied as NDCs in the Paris Agree­ment) from the EU when it comes to pro­tect­ing the cli­mate. We organ­ised a small demon­stra­tion on the occa­sion of the Com­mis­sion­ers’ vis­it to Madrid to high­light our demands.


Blocked negotiations and a personality cult

Week one gave us two oppor­tu­ni­ties to pose ques­tions and demands to the head of the Ger­man del­e­ga­tion, Ms Wilke. We demand­ed, as ever, more and bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties for youth par­tic­i­pa­tion, both in the nego­ti­a­tions them­selves and at the nation­al lev­el. We fought for more ambi­tious tar­gets and, as ever, high­light­ed the exist­ing ways in which cit­i­zens can get involved in the polit­i­cal process as well as the oth­er groups and organ­i­sa­tions which need to be involved apart from youth ones. That was all well and good, but we demand­ed more. Young peo­ple are not just any old sec­tion of soci­ety – they are THE rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the future and thus need a seat at the table when­ev­er the future is up for dis­cus­sion. It would be strange, to say the least, to treat our com­mon future as just anoth­er sec­tion­al interest.

Media atten­tion arrived at the lat­est by Fri­day, when Gre­ta Thun­berg arrived. But we need to be increas­ing­ly wary of what the media “report”. Dear Media, what’s more impor­tant? Sub­stance and facts or a per­son­al­i­ty cult? A small sit-in in the con­fer­ence hall on Fri­day morn­ing was a small taste of what was to come – a 500,000 strong demon­stra­tion in Madrid in the evening. Such a spec­tac­u­lar num­ber real­ly makes an impres­sion when you see every­one togeth­er on the street. Tak­ing part in the march real­ly moti­vat­ed us to make the most of our priv­i­leged access to the negotiations.

On Sat­ur­day we held our event in the Ger­man Pavil­ion, an event which had tak­en a long-time to pre­pare. We dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­i­ties and lim­its of youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pol­i­tics of cli­mate change with Ingrid-Gabriela Hov­en from the Min­istry for Eco­nom­ic Coop­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment and Nor­bert Gorißen from the Min­istry for the Envi­ron­ment, Nature Con­ser­va­tion and Nuclear Safe­ty along­side young del­e­gates from Sail to the COP, NAJU, Fri­days for Future, COY15 and FIMCAP. We began with an ani­mat­ed dis­cus­sion spurred by a livestream to Mar­tinique, where our own Clara von Glasow was fol­low­ing nego­ti­a­tions along with Sail to the COP, and by a mes­sage from COY15, the youth cli­mate con­fer­ence which runs par­al­lel to the COP.

The rules con­cern­ing mar­ket-based solu­tions (Arti­cle 6) which came out of the nego­ti­a­tions are par­tic­u­lar­ly eye-catch­ing, and not in a good way. It had proved impos­si­ble to agree on the detail here in pre­vi­ous rounds of nego­ti­a­tion in Bonn and Kat­towitz. Posi­tions only hard­ened at Madrid and the delay­ing tac­tics of cer­tain nego­tia­tors more than strained every­body else. Hopes of move­ment on this issue rest­ed on the min­is­ters who joined nego­ti­a­tions in week two. A weak com­pro­mise on Arti­cle 6 would have endan­gered the whole point of set­ting tar­gets in the Paris Agree­ment in the first place.

Cos­ta Rica seem­ing­ly deliv­ered the deci­sive blow to this attack on the integri­ty of the Paris Agree­ment with its “San José Prin­ci­ples”. They pro­vide a robust reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work for the mar­ket mech­a­nisms set out in Arti­cle 6. Ger­many was the first G20 state to back them and by the end of the con­fer­ence thir­ty oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing 17 EU-mem­bers, had too.


Climate Justice in Week Two

Our del­e­gates met Sven­ja Schulze, a fed­er­al min­is­ter, Anne Spiegel, the Min­is­ter for Fam­i­lies, Women, Young Peo­ple, Inte­gra­tion and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion in Rhein­land-Pfalz, as well as Anja Weißgär­ber from the Chris­t­ian Social Union and the MEPs Delara Burkhardt and Mohamed Chahim. We also had frank dis­cus­sions with Mr Sach from the Ger­man del­e­ga­tion and with mem­bers of the Bundestag’s Envi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee. We made it clear that we stand not just for youth par­tic­i­pa­tion, but also for our knowl­edge, sug­ges­tions and ideas.

By week two it was impos­si­ble for con­fer­ence-goers not to have been repeat­ed­ly remind­ed of cli­mate jus­tice. Hil­da Nakabuye, a Fri­days for Future activist in Ugan­da who also works to rid the country’s sec­ond-largest lake of plas­tic, spoke for young peo­ple in the Glob­al South with her emo­tion­al speech that asked when the time for nego­ti­a­tion would stop and the time for action would begin. Her speech result­ed in a stand­ing ova­tion and teary eyes. Her mes­sage was clear. Whilst peo­ple are dying of cli­mate change in coun­tries all over the world every day, espe­cial­ly in the Glob­al South, the Glob­al North does not take any­thing like enough repon­si­bil­i­ty for the cri­sis it has cre­at­ed. And they are run­ning out of time to take respon­si­bil­i­ty. Her speech made the lack of clear res­o­lu­tions on the point of “Loss and Dam­age” all the hard­er to take.

It was very hard to avoid the calls for cli­mate jus­tice on that day. Activists gath­ered on the stage and out­side the nego­tia­tors’ rooms to demand an end to the delay­ing tac­tics as well as prop­er answers to the cri­sis which is already cost­ing lives, espe­cial­ly those in the Glob­al South. The press state­ments prais­ing civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions and youth move­ments belied the real­i­ty of their treat­ment. The con­fer­ence organ­is­ers from the UNFCCC decid­ed to forcibly end the protest and the result­ing pic­tures will cer­tain­ly leave a last­ing impres­sion of this COP.

We were invit­ed to oth­er events and round­table dis­cus­sions in the sec­ond week, touch­ing upon the top­ics gen­der equal­i­ty in the con­text of cli­mate change as well as steady-state eco­nom­ics and the mobil­i­sa­tion of var­i­ous groups in soci­ety for effec­tive action on the climate.

Nego­ti­a­tions on arti­cle 6 were more or less stuck in the same place by the end of the COP as at the begin­ning. No one expect­ed a quick and easy com­pro­mise by the time of the summit’s con­clud­ing talks and their end was, for this rea­son, repeat­ed­ly put back, from 16:00 to 18:00, 00:00 to 02:00 and all the way into Sun­day morning.

Civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions then pro­ceed­ed to close the con­fer­ence with a “People’s Clos­ing Ple­nary” in which many speak­ers voiced their frus­tra­tion over the nego­ti­a­tions which had, once again, proved fruit­less. The Indige­nous People’s Cau­cus summed it up well:

It is not ambi­tious to think sev­en gen­er­a­tions ahead, it is the minimum.
It is not ambi­tious to respect the rights enu­mer­at­ed by the Unit­ed Nations Dec­la­ra­tion on the Rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples (UNDRIP), it is the minimum.
It is not ambi­tious to meet NDCs, it is the minimum.
Uphold­ing our rights is not ‘ambi­tious‘, it is the minimum.
But we do not want the min­i­mum, we want to help you be ambitious.


Looking ahead to 2020

The hope remains that gov­ern­ments act upon the above.

All eyes are on the EU in 2020. A lot depends on whether it choos­es to be an exem­plar, set­ting ambi­tious tar­gets in statute and imple­ment­ing them, or not. The announce­ment of the Green New Deal was a good first step. Only if the EU sends out strong sig­nals that it is seri­ous will oth­er big emit­ters like Chi­na, South Africa and India fol­low suit. A rel­e­vant law ought to be ready by the end of Feb­ru­ary and a draft of the new EU NDC ready by the sum­mer. We look for­ward to it! In Ger­many, fur­ther action is cur­rent­ly being held up by our Min­is­ter for Eco­nom­ic Affairs.

From our point of view this means we have to start 2020 off with more projects and ideas. Giv­ing up is not an option. That would mean giv­ing up on the peo­ple today and in the future who are most affect­ed by the cli­mate crisis.


Note. The FRFG man­aged to reserve some places at the con­fer­ence for young peo­ple from Kli­madel­e­ga­tion e.V. You can thus find more infor­ma­tion about COP25 on their web­site (Ger­man).