COP25 conference in Madrid raises many expectations and many doubts. We give you a short overview at what stage every country is with regard to climate protection.

China is not quitting coal capacities

There’s a new look to the Chinese delegation: the new lead is vice-minister of environment ministry, Zhao Yingmin, replacing veteran Xie Zhenhua, who oversaw the US-China climate pact in 2014. Beijing watchers reckon this doesn’t necessarily mean the government is trying to de-prioritize climate, but he has less political leverage for sure. That said, news from China is pretty grim. EndCoal reckon China has piled on coal capacity in the last 18 months: 42.9 GW of new capacity coming online in the last 18 months – and an additional 147.7GW under review. More than enough to blow the 1.5C warming target.

The US-China trade war appears to be hurting Beijing, and forcing it to ditch clean energy and EV programmes. That’s bad news in a critical 12 months: the government is developing its 14th “Five-Year Plan” (FYP) for 2021-2025, due to be finalized and released in March 2021. In a speech given recently to the National Energy Commission, Premier Li Keqiang signaled a comeback for coal at the center of China’s energy policy.

EU will try to keep up with its own demands 

The EU Parliament has declared the ‘climate emergency’. The EIB’s move to kill oil, gas and coal funding from 2021 has given Brussels climate types a boost – but the new Commission is talking tough. Ursula Von der Leyen is expected to spend her first day in office at the COP. Incoming EU climate chief Frans Timmermans is slated to attend as well, fresh from claiming he will stop the bloc doing “contradictory things on climate” and promising to “put in law” a 2050 climate neutrality target. Brussels insiders reckon that 2050 target could be announced at the European Council on December 12-13; allowing the EU to make an announcement on the final day of COP25.

US wants to quit the Paris Agreement

The US Jekyll and Hyde climate stance is likely to ratchet up a gear. As the Trump administration starts plans to quit the Paris Agreement, which would take effect one day after the 2020 presidential election, so Democrats are heading to Madrid in force to argue they’re part of the solution. “The US subnational presence is expected to number over 70 leaders and be larger than the official federal government delegation.

Russia wants to keep up, but cannot

If the US situation isn’t surreal enough, check the Kremlin. Last week Putin spoke at the ‘Russia Calling Investment Forum’ and pledged his support for the UN climate process. Here’s a taster: “We intend to fulfill all obligations within the framework of the Paris Agreement. We will do everything to change the economy so that it will become “green”. We will change the industry and introduce penalties against those who do not use modern technology. First, we’ll change everything in the main industries and large cities.”  Worth adding perhaps that despite Vladmir’s bravado, Russia’s climate targets have been branded “critically insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker NGO. As CAT points out, Moscow’s 2015 target is cunning as it does not require any emission cuts.

India is lacking money 

The Modi govt says it won’t update its climate plan till 2023, arguing it wants to wait till it sees new offers of financial support and the results of a planned UN assessment that year before making a new offer. Delhi-watchers reckon the combination of the annual toxic smog that recently enveloped the capital, pressure from state-level governors worried about climate impacts and big business could shift India in 2020.

Brazil could be a trigger for climate funding

Once the bosses of UN climate diplomacy, Itamaraty’s team has been shorn of veteran negotiators and is an unknown quantity. Brazil is expected to work with India, China and South Africa to pressure developed nations on climate finance, and could again be the giant spanner in the works when it comes to a carbon markets deal. Brasilia wants to be able to use its vast stocks of Amazon carbon as future offsets – allowing it to reap lots of dosh and do very little.

Japan cannot deliver

Tokyo’s fresh-faced environment minister talked tough on climate in New York this September, but he appears unable to deliver. Reasons cited include failure to turn its fleet of nuclear power plants back on, and a delay in reviewing a new energy plan. Watch out for the ‘Shinzo Abe in a bucket of coal’ blimp which is set to make an appearance in Madrid, say activists at No Coal Japan.

Africa needs more money to be able to keep up

Ministers from the Africa Group met last week in Durban, South Africa. 18 African countries have pledged to raise their NDC ambition by 2020 – but ministers appear preoccupied over the lack of financial provision to ensure existing climate plans actually get rolled out. In 2018, the Climate Policy Initiative estimated only 3% of climate finance flows make it to Africa.

UK’s position is unclear

Climate has figured heavily among most UK general election manifestos, but we can expect the UK team in Madrid to keep a low profile, The Brits are still working as part of the EU climate collective, and COP26 president-elect Claire Perry O’Neill will be onsite monitoring talks – but the formal nod that the UK and Italy will take change of next year’s summit may only come on the closing days when the ‘COP’ concludes business [agenda here].

Australia is suffering climate change

With Fires raging through city suburbs but politicians still equivocating, Australia seems a decade or more behind the UK when it comes to a vaguely balanced debate on cause and response. Gays, greens and general “sinners” have been blamed for the wildfires sweeping Australia. Less so climate change. Scott Morrison’s government is also exploring how to clamp down on climate activists, Morrison labelling them “indulgent and selfish.” What’s less well known is that every state and territory in the country now has a net zero by 2050 target, and ambitious targets for renewables by 2030. Change is coming, but emissions minister Angus Taylor – who will travel to Madrid – may not mention that.

Spain’s current Government has got a plan

Government formation talks are likely to rumble on through COP and dominate the domestic new cycle. It’s unclear what coalition partners PSOE (left wing) and Podemos (hard-left) will include in their climate programme.

  • PSOE don’t want a coal phase-out deadline, Podemos 2025 (same as UK).
  • Podemos wants 100% renewables by 2040 – PSOE wants to achieve this by 2050.
  • Podemos wanted a nuclear phase-out by 2024. PSOE supports a 2036 deadline
  • Both parties agreed earlier to end the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2040.