From COP 25 in Madrid (Dec, 15, 2019)

[Written by Elizabeth May]

Good Sunday Morning!

My Sunday morning started many hours ago.  As the clock ticked past midnight in Madrid (3 pm at home in BC), negotiations were still underway, as they continued throughout the night and early morning hours. It is now afternoon Sunday in Madrid.

It is quite typical for climate negotiations to over-run their allotted time. Conferences of the Parties are always supposed to end by Friday evening of week 2. They almost never do. Up until this COP, the longest and latest COP had been in Durban, when negotiations wrapped at 6:30 AM on the Sunday morning.

We smashed the record.  Not something we wanted to do!

COP25 has finally drawn to its long, protracted and uninspired wrap up.  For much of this COP, participants felt that we were in a state of suspended animation.  The key negotiations took place behind closed doors. Ministers negotiated directly with each other in smaller groups and even one on one.  The typical rooms full of negotiators, ministers and even heads of government arguing over every line – and sometimes even on punctuation marks – was replaced in this meeting with behind closed door negotiations.  If you want to dig deep into my daily reports from COP25, check out this link to Policy magazine. They asked me to produce a dispatch a day:

Negotiators from countries pushing for urgent climate action came out from behind closed doors for a Friday press conference.  The High Ambition Coalition is a large group of countries – the European Union, Costa Rica, low-lying island states, Norway, New Zealand, Mexico, among others. The goal is to push for tougher targets within the Paris Agreement.

Canada is a member, but not present at the press conference led by the Marshall Islands.  Even the High Ambition Coalition can be accused of failing to walk the talk, as happened at the presser when one reporter zoomed in on Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, Ola Evestuen.  Seeking a carbon neutral world, the reporter wanted to know how Norway justifies its oil industry.

This is what he said: “We have to prepare – we have to cut our own emissions as fast as we can.  We have to stop all use of fossil fuels….. We have to do this – all countries. And Norway will take its responsibility on this.”

It struck me how stunning it would be to hear any Canadian minister speak so clearly. Yes, Norway is still oil dependent. Oil represents more than one third of Norwegian exports and 12% of its GDP, far more than Canada.  Yet, Norway has also committed its sovereign wealth fund to renewables, while spurning fossil fuel companies and projects. Its state-owned oil company has pulled out of the oil sands.

Norway is still operating with areas of deep contradiction as underscored in a report from Saanich-Gulf Islands resident – David Boyd who serves as UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment. His report, described in The Guardian as “a stinging rebuke of the Norwegian government’s oil expansion” can be found here (Norway must resolve climate change and human rights paradox, UN expert says).

But Canada’s so-called leaders continue to perpetuate the nonsense that we can save ourselves in a climate emergency while adding more GHG to the atmosphere.

So did COP25 achieve anything?  It is a sort of glass half full-half empty problem.  The good news, it wasn’t glass smashed on the floor. That was Copenhagen.  We are on track, with good language in the COP25 decision to ask for the highest possible ambition in new targets to be tabled in 2020, preferably in the spring. And we did not end up with the very controversial Article 6 having rules that would have damaged the whole Paris effort to hold global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees. There was no decision at all on Article 6. It gets punted to next year.

I am so tired now, after being in this facility for the last 29 hours, I know I need time to study the final decisions. The final decisions are better than what might have been.  But the US, Brazil, and Australia have been outrageous, and avoiding damage while moving to next year’s mandatory new targets is a better result than I feared.

I am attaching a notice of very cool local climate initiative.  Please have a look and get involved!

Have a great day- Til next week!




The Islands Trust (IT), the Capital Regional District (CRD) and the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council have all declared a climate emergency for the Southern Gulf Islands. These islands and the surrounding waters are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including drought, seasonal water shortage and wildfire risk along with shoreline erosion from sea-level rise and coastal storm surges.

So, what do we do about it?

The ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project is a new education initiative that will identify and promote climate action strategies to respond to the climate emergency now facing the Southern Gulf Islands. Three five-day (30 hour) intensive climate action courses will be offered in February-March 2020 to braid W̱SÁNEĆ Traditional Knowledge with current climate science to address the emerging climate emergency now facing the ṮEṮÁĆES (pronounced Tlu,tlay,chus), the Southern Gulf Islands.

This project was launched in May 2019 at gathering of W̱SÁNEĆ First Nation elders and leaders together with Southern Gulf Islands community leaders and climate activists. What is both unique and innovative about the ṮEṮÁĆES Project is that it weaves current climate science with W̱SÁNEĆ Traditional Knowledge to provide a holistic approach to climate action education.

The curriculum frameworks for these courses were reviewed at a 2-day symposium in October by 46 representatives from the W̱SÁNEĆ First Nation and Gulf Islands representatives. Details of the following courses are available on the CRC website:

  • Indigenous perspectives on eco-cultural revitalization
  • Youth Leadership for climate action in the Southern Gulf Islands
  • Climate change in the Salish Sea archipelago

Ancient and current Indigenous Traditional Knowledge tells us that the nature of our relationship with the land, water and all that are part of nature will determine our ability to effectively meet the challenges of climate change on these islands. As Tsawout Chief Dr. Nick Claxton points out:

The SENĆOŦEN word for these Islands, ṮEṮÁĆES translates as “Relatives of the Deep” reflecting our creation story for the Islands. The Islands, our relatives, have provided a way of life for our people for thousands of years and W̱SÁNEĆ law creates a reciprocal relationship of care between W̱SÁNEĆ and ṮEṮÁĆES. — “This responsibility is absolute; we are obligated to care for these islands, not only through our own actions but by protecting the islands against harmful actions by others”.

The ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project will adopt the W̱SÁNEĆ reciprocal stewardship world view to guide the climate action strategies to meet the challenges of climate change. Climate science informs the need to cut the rate of greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and build community resiliency to respond to climate change impacts. Achieving these goals is necessary if we are going to prevent further ecological destruction, safeguard human well being and save from extinction the many species whose ecosystem we share. The ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project will identify and promote innovative and holistic climate action strategies to respond to the climate emergency now facing the Southern Gulf Islands.

For more information on the ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project visit the SGI CRC Website or contact:

Paul Petrie, SGI CRC project co-coordinator



Tye Swallow, W̱SÁNEĆ project co-coordinator


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