Last Letter from Madrid

by Henrique Schneider*

The 25th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP25) took place in Madrid, Dec 2 – 13. Henrique Schneider was on site and represented Switzerland …

Dear friends of the consensus!

This was the longest UN climate conference since 1992 – this means: ever. It was also the one that did not deliver much. Much is not nothing. It recognized a climate emergency. That’s big. Because emergency goes hand in hand with emergency powers. It is the first time the word emergency has entered an official text. The emergence of the word emergency is in itself an emergency …

Those of you who have been spammed by me with these recounts since 2012 know by now that the issue in which I have specialized moves slowly. It is no surprise that we decided not to decide but to reconvene in one year, probably to do the same again. The exact wording of our decision, i.e. the outcome of our discussion in these two weeks are “Notes the draft decision texts on matters relating to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement prepared by the President of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement2 at its second session while recognizing that these draft texts do not represent a consensus among Parties”
That is not a catastrophe. It is senseless and maybe irrational. It is expensive. Since 2012 we have spent more than 80’000 man-hours debating markets. However, madness is the business of climate conferences. So: why not?

The interesting thing is that after 8 years of obscurity, markets finally became noticeable. All Paris Agreement things were settled in 2018 in Katowice. All but markets. Now, the 13000 observers and the head of delegations, and the ambassadors, and the ministers, and the 4000 members of the press had finally time to focus on the workings of 500 of so markets specialists. What is true of zoos and sex is also valid in negotiations: the more watching, the more difficult is its to perform.

This time, the presidency made it extra easy not to do anything. The able lady from Chile thought that negotiators, instead of negotiating, should keep going and bouncing ideas. She explicitly discouraged any recording or monitoring of these ideas. Friday, she then realized that there was no idea of what a consensus could be. Saturday, she asked the Spaniard minister for help. If the Catalonia issue is any indicator of what Spaniards consider consensus, it is no wonder that Brazil, the US, Australia and the small island nations boycotted everything leading us to the memorable decision we took.
There was, however, an outcome that has the potential … for harm. There was a declaration for more action in climate. Right now, that piece of paper is a dumping ground for political proselytism. But who knows…maybe it will finally give emergency powers to the UN.

Don’t cry for us, Climate youth, Chile, Spain, looters, munchers, … just remember the facts: Climate Change Fears of Teen Activist Are Empirically Baseless – Just Facts. Madness in Madrid end without markets. See you in Glasgow 2020.
If Switzerland takes me.

Best,
Henri


*Henrique Schneider is a professor of economics at the Nordkademie University of Applied Sciences in Elmshorn, Germany and chief economist of the Swiss Federation of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in Bern, Switzerland.