Climate Change: What's Next?

UNFCCC, COP 25 (Dec 2019), logo

COP 25 in Madrid is over and the participants have left. Some are licking wounds, but all are busy planning ahead.

According to a press release posted on the government's website Norway is satisfied: "agreement was reached after long negotiations". Ola Elvestuen, Minister for Climate and Environment, stated that "we achieved a clear decision whereby countries are requested to focus more on their climate aims agenda in the coming year". The Paris Agreement's focus on "loss and damage", that is, support to countries that are hardest hit by climate changes, was a key issue during the conference. According to Elvestuen the conference on this issue arrived at a "good decision that brings this important work further".

Other participants view this differently, and that is putting it mildly. Two reports on have the headlines: "Largest Countries Silent as World Seeks Action on Climate", og "Irreconcilable Rift Cripples UN Climate Talks as Majority Stand Against Polluters".

This has happened before. In 2009 I was onboard a ship that sailed from Oslo to Copenhagen in connection with the climate conference that took place there. That conference was a complete letdown!

For many among us it is difficult to understand that the realities for the countries that are being hardest by climate change are not taken seriously. These countries include low-lying island states that in a few years time stand the risk of disappearing.

In connection with the conference where the Parist Agrement was signed I published an article on LinkedIn titled "The Present and Future Climate in Paris: to Sink or to Swim...", that referred to a longer article here on This was a reference to the art installation "Politicians Debating Global Warming" by the Spanish artist Isaac Cabral. It consists of several small figures of men that are more or less covered by water. I repeated the question about sinking or swimming in connection with COP 25 in an article on Facebook. All the evidence now points to a temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees. Those who cannot swim may consider learning it.

Several may now think, as do I, that enough is enough. One of them is Saleemul Huq, whom I worked with on a World Bank project in Bangladesh during the 90s, and that I know as a respected scientist and good at popularizing scientific knowledge. He works at International Institute for Environment and Development in London, and is a co-author on reports to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He is a vocal voice from the South when it comes to climate change. On 17 December he wrote an article on that argued that it made no sense to continue along the present path. It is not realistic to focus on a process that is concerned with microchanges when it comes to containment of damage and adaptation. Myself I work in development cooperation with adaptation to climate change, and I do have a sense that the goal is receding faster than we are able to work towards it.

He has some ideas as to what should be done in connection with COP 26 in Glasgow in 2020. Focusing on never-ending negotiations should stop. Instead the focus should be on concrete action. Representatives of civil society, companies, cities, universitites, indigenous peoples, and young people should be allowed to use the large conference rooms, while the official negotiators can use smaller meeting rooms where they can discuss the details. He refers to this as an "action COP", and suggests that Scotland's government organizes such a separate COP in parallel with England's official COP.

It will be interesting to learn how civil society and other stakeholders in Norway will continue their work. The populist right has to a large extent contributed to dichotomizing the public political discourse and decisionmaking. Politics in Norway has traditionally been consensus-oriented, while today it increasingly appears to be conflict-driven, as it is in several countries. With Sylvi Listhaug recently appointed as Minister for Oil and Energy, and her belief that climate change is not caused by humans, chances are there will be confrontations in the government around energy policy. This does not bode well for Norway's continued international work in this area. In this situation it makes sense if everybody that think alternatively around climate change – in civil society and private sector – join forces and plan to participate in COP 26. Furthermore, the proposed alternative "action COP" should be organized, partly ahead of the offical COP in order to exert maximal pressure on the negotiations.

Lars T Soeftestad

(1) A Norwegian language version of this article is available (see Note 3).
(2) Photo credit:
UN Climate Change, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC secretariat), URL:
(3) Relevant Devblog articles: "After the Pandemic - Rethink or Return to Normal" at: | "Agder After the Pandemic" at: | "Agder etter pandemien" at: | "Klimaendringer - hva nå?" at: | "Agderkonferansen og internasjonalisering" at: | "Internationalization and Globalization" at: | "Sykling og European Mobility Week" at: | "Bomstasjoner og bosetting" at: | "Agder og internasjonalisering" at:

(4) Other Devblog articles: "Networks and Networking" at: | "Networks and Virtual Communication" at: | "Our House is Falling Apart" at: | "Business Sector and Sustainability" at: | "Urban Cycling" at: | "Climate Change - Sink or Swim?" at:
(5) Permalink. URL:
(6) This article was published 23 December 2019. It was revised 17 November 2020.

Norwegian Government. URL:
Climate Home News. URL:

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