Little by way of solid political outcomes emerged from the COP25 meeting in Madrid, with climate negotiators pushing back many of the hard decisions until next year’s critical meeting in Glasgow, including a decision on rules for carbon pricing in the Paris Agreement.

“There is no sugar-coating it: The negotiations fell far short of what was expected,” said Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, in a statement. “Instead of leading the charge for more ambition, most of the large emitters were missing in action or obstructive. This reflects how disconnected many national leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens. They need to wake up in 2020.” 

Extinction Rebellion activists didn’t mince words, dumping a load of horse manure outside the COP25 venue, topped by a message to world leaders: “The horseshit stops here.”

Earlier in the week, young followers of Greta Thunberg took over and occupied the main stage and demanded world leaders commit to far more ambitious action to address the climate emergency.

According to a global study conducted by pollsters Ipsos MORI, two in five (41%) of 18 to 25-year-olds identify climate change as “one of the most important” issues facing the world. More than one in three (36%) put pollution in the same bracket. The study, commissioned by Amnesty international, involved 22,000 young Generation Z adults from 22 countries.

But not all policymakers were dragging their heels. In stark opposition to the US Senate, which voted down a proposed Green New Deal, the European Union unveiled its own ambitious green growth plan during COP25. The policy initiative, which remains at the proposal stage, would see the European trading bloc pass a “climate law” to legally commit its members to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The proposal recognises that a serious change in gear is required, with emissions down just 23% since 1990 (albeit with a 61% growth in the economy). European emissions will reduce by only 60% by mid-century if its present-day trajectory continues as it is, the 24-page proposal concedes.

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