Climate News

COP25 Move to Europe a Setback for NGOs in the Global South

Photo Credit: Supermac1961

The news that the annual UN Climate Conference will be returning to Europe once again has sent resource-strapped civil society organizations in Latin America and elsewhere in the Global South scrambling to have their voices heard at COP25. 

The UNFCCC announced on November 1 that COP25 will take place from December 2 to 13 in Madrid. The decision came after Chile pulled out of hosting it a few days earlier following days of unrest and violence in Santiago.  

In addition to the actual negotiations, the annual climate conferences provide an opportunity for civil society organizations to draw attention to key environmental issues in the region. Highlighting regional threats will be particularly important this time around as key decisions are expected to be made on loss and damage and protecting frontline communities, which are of huge importance to the Global South. 

Global South Historically Underrepresented

With COP26 scheduled to take place in Glasgow in 2020, there are now four consecutive global climate conferences taking place in Europe.  This has helped shift the balance of power toward Europe and away from the rest of the world.

This imbalance is bad news for NGOs from the Global South that have been underrepresented at previous conferences.  For example, at COP21 in Paris, NGOs from the Global South only accounted for 25 percent of the total representation.  Participation was slightly higher at 30 percent at COP20 in Lima, the last time the climate conference was hosted in Latin America.  

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COP25 Presents Logistical Challenges

While the last-minute shift from Santiago to Madrid will impact everyone planning to attend this year’s climate conference, it will disproportionately affect countries from the Global South.  The change presents a logistical nightmare for those with limited resources.  

“The shifting of COP25 from Chile to Madrid with only four weeks’ notice presents real barriers to participation for countries from the Global South and civil society. Hotels in Madrid are already full,” said Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change for ActionAid International. “Last minute flights are expensive. Visas can be difficult to obtain at short notice. This sudden decision is likely to shift the balance of power towards the wealthier countries of the global North.”

What’s Next?

Even though Chile President Sebastián Piñera is under scrutiny for human rights violations, he is set to preside over COP25 in Spain.  Piñera and Environmental Minister Carolina Schmidt are able to evade the unrest caused at home while civil society organizations are likely to be left behind.  

It would be simply unconscionable to accommodate the Chilean government after its involvement in numerous civilian deaths, and yet at the same time give civil society organizations the cold shoulder.  

“While the COP25 will be hosted in Madrid, this must remain a Latin American COP with strong focus on the protection of those impacted by climate change and ill-designed climate policies,” wrote Sebastién Duyck, Senior Attorney at the Center for International Law.  “Facilitating visa and financial support will be key to inclusive COP.” 

Unless measures are taken to provide civil society organizations in Latin America and elsewhere with financial and logistical support, the Global South figures to once again be underrepresented at the climate talks.

Categories: Climate News, COP25

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