The mirage of Madrid: Elusive ambition on the horizon

In this editorial published in the academic journal Climate Policy, 2020, Volume 20, Issue 2, Climate Focus director Charlotte Streck analyses why the Madrid Climate Conference failed to deliver and how to move forward at COP26.

In December 2019, country delegations convened for their annual climate conference. COP25, that is, the 25th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), took place in ‘Madrid, Chile’ – located politically in Chile but physically in Madrid. As always, expectations abounded. The conference was to deliver the final rules for a global carbon market. It was also supposed to send a strong signal of increased ambition, ahead of countries revising the climate targets and policies set out in their ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs) in 2020. The Madrid Climate Conference failed to deliver on both accounts. There is no clear pathway towards the enhanced ambition of climate targets in 2020 and negotiations on carbon markets broke down yet again.

Instead of looking back towards the frustrated expectations of Madrid, all actors, governments, corporations and NGOs should join in their ambition to make COP26, to be held in November 2019 in Glasgow, a success. They could use the convening power of these global climate conferences to organize sessions that provide space to discuss concrete collaboration around mitigation and adaptation challenges. Such collaboration may yield real emission reductions faster than it takes to remove brackets around COP decisions.