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COP25 in Madrid: UN Secretary-General Guterres says planet is 'close to a point of no return'

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COP25 in Madrid: UN Secretary-General Guterres says planet is 'close to a point of no return'
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More than 50 world leaders have gathered for the 2019 United Nations Climate Change (COP25) conference at Madrid's IFEMA convention centre. The event was supposed to take place in Chile but was moved due to civil unrest in the country.

The Climate Summit, which should lay the framework for a new phase of climate action, starts today in the Spanish capital. COP25 is the last UN Climate Summit before 2020 when many nations must submit new climate action plans.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that important decisions must be taken "now" to limit emissions that cause the greenhouse effect.

Guterres claimed that the planet is close to “the point of no return” and urged all countries to be more "ambitious" and cut pollutant emissions as this is "critical time" to combat climate change.

Climate, equality and decarbonisation

Climate change's 'unequal' impact on different countries and social groups has been marked by world leaders.

Chilean environmental minister Carolina Schmidt claimed that the way climate change affects the world is "unfair" as it mainly hurts vulnerable people, communities and countries.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi also mentioned that the climate crisis should be addressed in terms of "economic and environmental justice for all".

"We all believe that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to pass on this planet in a better way, the best possible way", Pelosi said during the opening ceremony.

King of S`pain Felipe VI also pointed out that the most vulnerable are the most affected by the impact of global warming, exacerbating the risks and causes of social inequality, poverty and hunger.

He explained that, for the Spanish Government, the solution to climate change is "greater solidarity and joint decisions to achieve shared solutions based on the clear, reliable and solid warnings of science".

The path to decarbonisation was also highlighted as one of the main goals of states to fight climate change, one of the outstanding issues from the last climate summit held last year in Poland.

"We need a rapid and profound change in the way Humanity does business, generates energy, builds cities, moves and feeds itself, eliminating our addiction to carbon", Antonio Guterres said. He urged especially to abandon fossil fuels and regulate carbon markets.

"We must reach the Glasgow summit in 2020 (COP26) with much more ambitious national contributions and these long-term strategies must lead to orderly, fair and efficient decarbonization. Spain is ready to take that step forward", Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said.

Ursula is official

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is attending Madrid's conference as her first official act. Von der Leyen has set high targets in the European Union's policy to combat climate change, pledging to reduce the bloc's carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030.

On Sunday, her first day at the helm, she repeated to journalists her objective to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, meaning carbon emissions should be fully offset by measures that cut CO2, like planting trees.

"In 10 days, the European Commission will present the EU GreenDeal. Our goal is to be the 1st climate-neutral continent by 2050. If we want to achieve that goal, we have to act and implement our policies now. Because we know that this transition needs a generational change, she said on Twitter on Monday.

Chile presides the summit

Although the summit takes place in Spain, Chilean minister Carolina Shmidt will preside over the negotiations during the summit. "In Chile and the world, we are experiencing social and environmental crises. In order to face them, we must return to our roots: we must listen to each other to rebuild trust and dialogue with a willingness to change", she said during the ceremony.

The COP25 was supposed to be held in Chile but was moved due to a wave of protests that ask for greater social justice.

Last October, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera said he had taken the “painful” decision to cancel the UN Climate Change Summit in December, to focus on restoring law and order and pushing through a new social plan.

At the opening ceremony, Pedro Sánchez has acknowledged the "extraordinary work" done by Chile organising the summit during the past years. "The success of this meeting will be the success of Chile, a country that shares strong ties with Spain", he said.

Due to the convulsed situation in Chile, Piñera will not attend the Climate Summit in Madrid. "Chile’s commitment to the fight against Global Warming is firm clear and permanent. That is why it hurts not to be in Madrid. But today my duty and responsibility are to be in Chile facing the hard times that we have been through", he explained on a video recording.

Guest list

The presidents of Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic; the prime minister of Morocco, Saadeddine Othmani and Prince Albert of Monaco are some of the leaders that will be present this year.

Before the official opening, Pedro Sánchez will meet the heads of state and government of the EU countries and the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. During the afternoon, he will meet the leaders from Latin America.

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