Last United Nations conference on climate change before 2020 to kick off in Madrid

The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference will open today in Madrid. The meeting comes just two months after UN Secretary-General

climate change

Photo: Gabriel Bouys / AFP

The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference will open today in Madrid.

The meeting comes just two months after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened a Climate Action Summit in New York to address efforts to reverse climate change.

The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) first established non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries. The 2015 Paris Agreement built on this, with participating parties agreeing to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures and boost climate action financing.

As 2020 draws near, the reporting timelines established by the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement will have all participating parties submit their first “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) at today’s meeting—reporting both the impact of climate change on individual countries and how governments plan on taking action on the issue in the future.

The discussions this conference and the eventual release of data in these reports will offer new insights into how individual countries are addressing climate change. In the medium to long-term this data may inspire more concrete political action in future UN conferences, as the reports will offer a source of information on the extent to which countries are sharing the burden. Future UN efforts to raise awareness of which countries are slacking on their climate commitments may motivate more sceptical countries to improve cooperate and take their own commitments more seriously.