Live from Madrid: Thoughts from the UN’s annual climate conference
December 11, 2019
By Manuel J. Oliva, Chief Executive Officer
Poland. Mexico. South Africa. Denmark. For the past 15 years I’ve traveled to various far-flung locations to attend the United Nations’ annual climate change meeting. Known officially as “Conferences Of the Parties” (and informally as “COPs”) tens of thousands of people attend these events each year, almost all of them intent on addressing the climate crisis. This year, at COP25 in Madrid, I couldn’t be prouder to be attending with my colleagues on behalf of Point Blue.
The COP has two basic streams of work: 1) Official negotiations where countries are debating global policies and implementation mechanisms to combat climate change, such as the Paris Agreement; and 2) Knowledge sharing via events and workshops between countries, the private sector, civil society, and others on climate change solutions. I’m thrilled to report that in both streams this year, the role of nature-based solutions and the need to protect critical ecosystems and biodiversity while pursuing ambitious climate action are highly visible themes.
Throughout our time here, the Point Blue team has been sharing our work and our findings while gaining valuable insights into what others are doing across the globe. On Monday, Point Blue’s Dr. Elizabeth Porzig joined experts from around the world in a panel discussion hosted by partners. The panel’s title, “Averting the climate and biodiversity crises,” couldn’t capture more perfectly the urgency of the work ahead of us. But perhaps most importantly: Every single person that I have met here is eager to take what they’ve seen, heard, and learned in Madrid and explore how these new ideas and potential new partnerships to help redouble their efforts back home. And Point Blue’s guiding principles of creating innovative solutions through strong science and authentic partnerships with all communities has resonated powerfully with many who I have spoken with in the halls of the vast conference center.
While attending these events can be somewhat overwhelming, they are also a source of continued hope for me. COP25’s 26,000 registered participants include many prominent individuals representing countries, organizations, and movements. None, however, have garnered the level of attention that Greta Thunberg has. Having spent time catching up with numerous old friends here at the COP and sharing stories from the many years we have spent following these negotiations it is not hard to feel a new level of optimism from the words and actions of this youth movement inspiring us towards greater urgency for immediate, more ambitious, and more equitable action.
As we get ready to start a new year and a new decade, I wish everyone reading this a dose of the same optimism we are feeling here in Madrid. It is only by all of us joining together that we can secure a safe future for our planet, and the human and wildlife communities that depend on it. We are excited by the work ahead of us and hope you’ll join us for the journey.