COP25 main outcomes

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Date produced: 04/02/2020

Can you prepare a summary of COP25 main outcomes?


The UN climate change conference took place in Madrid on 2 – 13 December 2019. It formally included the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25), the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP15), and the 2nd session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA2). The 51st sessions of the subsidiary bodies (SBI51 and SBSTA51) took pace 2 – 9 December 2019.

The Parties adopted a series of decisions, which are available here. Key substantive outcomes are summarized below.

Mitigation ambition

The Paris Agreement (PA) contains mechanisms to encourage parties to ratchet up their ambition through periodical stocktakes and updates to their NDCs. These updates must lead to progressive reductions in emissions and reflect the highest possible ambition. Thus, parties whose NDC cover a timeframe of up to 2025 are required to communicate a new NDC by 2020, whilst those parties with a timeframe of up to 2030 have to ‘communicate or update’ their NDC by 2020[1]. Given the significant gap between the ambition reflected in parties’ (I)NDCs and what is needed to achieve the PA goals, it was hoped that Madrid would send a strong signal on the need for all parties to strengthen their contributions this year. However, a number of parties disputed that there was a specific requirement for updated and enhanced pledges in 2020 and efforts to agree a clear mandate to raise ambition were not successful.

The final ‘Chile Madrid Time for Action’ text agreed in the CMA Decision[2] merely recalls the request to parties contained in the relevant paragraphs of Decision 1/CP.21, whilst also re-emphasizing the urgent need to address the emissions gap and urging parties to consider this gap and reflect their highest ambition when they re-communicate or update their NDCs. The decision recalls that the secretariat is tasked with producing a synthesis report of NDC submissions prior to November 2020 and requests the secretariat to make this report available to COP26. It also reiterates the invitation to parties (in Article 4.19 PA) to communicate long-term low emission development strategies by 2020.

Discussions in Madrid also focused on pre-2020 implementation and ambition, including mitigation pledges under the Cancun Agreements and the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (subject to the Doha Amendment which is not yet in force) and finance pledges. Developing countries have for a long time voiced dissatisfaction with the level of action by developed countries. In Madrid, some developing countries called for a two-year work programme to identify developed countries’ efforts and gaps on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation, and ways to close those gaps. In the end the ‘Chile Madrid Time for Action’ decision adopted by COP25 decided to hold a round table to discuss pre-2020 implementation and ambition at COP26.[3] Inputs can be submitted by September 2020. The Secretariat is tasked with providing a summary report by September 2021, which will inform the second periodic review.

The issue of the gap between emission commitments and the PA goals, and consideration of pre-2020 action, also arose in the context of the scope of the second periodic review of the UNFCCC’s long-term global goal (to limit the increase in global warming to well below 2°C/1.5°C above pre-industrial levels). Parties disagreed first on whether a second periodic review should take place, and then on its mandate, with developing countries wanting to include a review of pre-2020 action by developed countries. Ultimately, parties agreed to begin the second periodic review in the second-half of 2020 and conclude it in 2022, but left out any reference to pre-2020 action.[4] They also agreed that the review will not result in an alteration or redefinition of the long-term goal.[5] It was also decided to review the need for further periodic reviews – a decision left to COP 30 in 2024. This is because the Paris Agreement’s provision for global stocktakes every 5 years could render the periodic review redundant.

Completion of the Paris Rulebook

In Katowice, parties had reached agreement on many of the rules for the implementation of the PA (the so-called Paris Rulebook). There remained significant gaps that needed to be addressed, however, to make the PA fully operational. First amongst them were the rules related to Article 6, PA, but rules in other areas needed finalizing as well as further set out below.

1. Article 6

Art.6 PA allows Parties to cooperate on a voluntary basis to implement their NDCs via market and non-market based approaches. Two different (but not mutually exclusive) market-based approaches are outlined in paras.2-7: cooperative approaches involving the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) between two or more Parties, and a new centrally governed mechanism that contributes to mitigation and supports sustainable development. Paras.8 and 9 provide for a framework of non- market approaches.

In Katowice, parties had failed to find consensus on the rules for Article 6. Finalizing these rules was therefore high up on the Madrid agenda. Areas of disagreement prior to the meeting in Madrid included: (a) the rules for avoiding double-counting; (b) the carry-over of Kyoto-era carbon offset units; (c) funding adaptation through Article 6 mechanisms; and (d) the issue of Overall Mitigation in Global Emissions (OMGE). They were further addressed in Madrid but – once again – parties did not reach an agreement.

(a) Corresponding adjustments and double counting

Article 6.2 allows states to trade carbon credits via Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs). Without proper accounting, ITMOs could lead to double counting, where it is counted towards the target of more than one country’s NDCs. The issue arises as a result of parties using different types of NDCs (how do you account for trade between parties with different types of NDC): some parties target their emissions budget over multiple years, while others aim for a particular level of emissions in a single target year. Trading may potentially allow parties to meet their single-year targets without actually cutting emissions.

The question whether corresponding adjustments to NDCs should also apply in the context of the Article 6.4 mechanism was contentious too. Brazil continued (as it had at COP24) pushing for emission reductions exports being exempt from corresponding adjustments whilst most other parties objected on the ground that it would lead to double counting and undermine the environmental integrity of the PA.

(b) Kyoto-era carbon credits

Another contentious issue concerned the transition of Kyoto Protocol emission reduction units into the Paris Agreement. Some developed states, such as Australia, wanted to use existing Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) under the Protocol to meet their NDCs. Developing countries such as Brazil, India and China holding lots of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) units generated through the Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) pushed for these units to be transitioned to the new Article 6.4 mechanism. Others, including the African Group, AILAC, AOSIS, LDCs and the EU, opposed any transition of units. The draft text tabled by the Presidency in the last hours of the negotiations would have allowed for CERs created after a certain date, yet to be determined.[6] This latest proposal did not refer to AAUs, however the option for explicitly banning AAUs was contained in previous drafts, which could be reopened in the 2020 June session.

(c) Funding Adaptation

To fund adaptation in vulnerable countries, Article 6.4 provides that a share of the proceeds (SOP) from activities under the mechanism will be used to assist those countries in meeting the costs of adaptation. There was disagreement as to whether this adaptation levy should be applied to transactions under Article 6.2 as well (Article 6 is silent on this). Developing countries pushed for a mandatory levy under Article 6.2 so as to create a sizeable and reliable revenue stream for adaptation, but this was opposed by the US and other developed countries who were only willing to contemplate a voluntary mechanism, under which parties are “strongly encouraged” to support adaptation through trade from Article 6.2.[7]

(d) Overall Mitigation in Global Emissions

Art.6 para.4 (d) specifically provides that the new mechanism it establishes will aim to deliver an overall mitigation in  global emissions. This could be achieved by progressively reducing a portion of traded offsets. Article 6.2 in comparison is silent on the subject. Disagreement, therefore, centered on whether OMGE should also be applied to Article 6.2 and on how a system could be implemented to guarantee OMGE. The latest proposal from the presidency envisaged for Article 6.4 to set aside at least 2% of traded offsets for OMGE.[8] The exact figure, however, was to be decided later. Efforts to apply OMGE to Article 6.2 transactions were not successful. In the latest text on Article 6.2, parties are not required but are “strongly encouraged” to set aside a portion of traded offsets for OMGE.

(e) other

Framework for non-market approaches – One of the main outstanding issues left over from Katowice on Article 6.8 related to governance. This was essentially sidelined in Madrid due to the absence of Bolivia, the main proponent for institutionalising the work programme. The final iteration of text envisages establishing a Non-Market Approaches (NMA) Forum under the auspices of the SB chairs. It foresees considering the need for further institutional arrangements after a review of the work programme in 2024.

As a result of the continued disagreement, on 14 December, a group of parties led by Costa Rica and Switzerland launched the San Jose Principles, establishing high quality standards for integrity of Article 6 transactions, including through not using pre-2020 CDM credits, corresponding adjustments for all transfers, a contribution to OMGE and transparent reporting. Quite what impact will these Principles have on the international carbon markets and the COP26 negotiations remain to be seen.

Discussions on all three elements will continue at the SBs meeting in June, with three iterations for each element to be considered by parties under the SBSTA. Reconciling these texts and progressing on the remaining contentious issues will be key if parties are to adopt decision texts at COP26.

2. Common timeframes

At present, parties’ NDCs have different timeframes: some have 2025 as a target date, many have 2030 and some have even longer timeframes. COP21 in Paris, therefore, mandated the CMA to consider common timeframes at its first session. In Katowice, parties had agreed to apply common timeframes to their NDCs from 2031 but could not agree on what those timeframes should be.

The lack of consensus continued in Madrid. Some groups argued for shorter, five year timeframes, so as to align NDCs with the 5-year cycle of global stocktakes and to prevent locking in low ambition for too long, whilst others supported longer timeframes, different timeframes for developed and developing countries, as well as for mitigation, adaptation and finance. As parties were unable to reach consensus, the issue was deferred to the SB meeting in June.

3. Transparency

Whilst the modalities, procedures and guidelines for the PA’s enhanced transparency framework were agreed at COP24 in Katowice[9], some elements remained to be agreed to make the reporting and review process fully operational. This included formulating common reporting tables and common tabular formats that parties will use in reporting information, agreeing the outlines of biennal transparency reports (BTRs), national inventory reports (NIRs) and technical expert review (TER) reports. These elements are due to be adopted by CMA3 at COP26.

The issue of flexibility for those countries that need it, and how to operationalize it, resurfaced in the negotiations. In this context Parties tried to reconcile the objectives of ensuring that reporting is complete, comparable and transparent through common reporting standards whilst not placing an undue burden on developing countries with limited capacities.  Parties were, however, unable to find consensus on the proposals on the table, nor on whether to undertake inter-sessional work and mandate the secretariat to come up with a proposal on common reporting tables. Discussions will therefore continue in June.

4. Capacity Building

The Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB) was established at COP21 in Paris with the aim of addressing gaps and needs in implementing capacity building in developing countries and enhancing the coherence and coordination of capacity-building activities under the Convention. At COP21 parties also decided that they would consider at COP25 recommendations on enhancing institutional arrangements for capacity building, in recognition of the fact that capacity building efforts and activities take place under a range of bodies under both the Convention and PA. The resulting decision[10] thus provides that the PCCB shall serve the PA in accordance with its mandate and terms of reference, and that it will report to both the COP and CMA.

The PCCB had been tasked in Paris with managing and overseeing the capacity-building work plan for the period 2016-2020. A review of the PCCB took place in Madrid, as a result of which it was recognised that this work plan was very broad and didn’t offer much guidance on how to prioritize work under it. Parties thus decided on priority areas and activities to focus and guide the work of the PCCB[11]. They also agreed to extend its term for five years, and requested the Committee to develop a new work plan for the period of its extension for consideration by the COP in November 2020.

Loss and Damage

The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) was established at COP19 to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The second review of the WIM was due to conclude in Madrid. A key priority for those vulnerable developing countries was to strengthen the WIM and its mandate to support them. In particular, LDCs and SIDS called for the establishment of an ‘implementation branch’ and for new and additional finance for loss and damage. This was strongly resisted by some developed countries, however.

The final decision text[12] reflects this divergence of views: whilst it “urges the scaling-up of action and support, as appropriate, including finance, technology and support”, no reference is made to developed countries nor to the fact that finance should be new and additional, with the risk that funding will come from existing finance streams intended for mitigation and adaptation.

The decision also tasks the Executive Committee of the WIM to establish an expert group whose mandate includes engaging with existing financial institutions within the UNFCCC to identify ways of enhancing the provision of climate finance for loss and damage, and collecting and disseminating information on available sources for such support. Its mandate does not include mobilizing new and additional sources of finance, however.

In addition, the decision establishes the Santiago Network to catalyse the technical assistance of key stakeholders involved in the implementation of relevant approaches at the local, national and regional level, in developing countries.

The question of the WIM governance, ie which supreme body – COP, CMA or both – should be responsible for guiding its work, was particularly contentious, with developed countries (the US in particular) arguing that the WIM should be under the sole authority of the CMA whilst developing countries contended it should be under the authority of both bodies. The US position aims to ensure that, after it withdraws from the PA, it won’t be bound by obligations to support developing countries in their efforts to address climate-related loss and damage. Developed countries were willing to compromise but only if the provision of the Paris Decision which states that Article 8 PA does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation applied to discussions under the COP as well. In the absence of consensus, a procedural decision was adopted by the COP, noting that discussions on governance will continue at COP26 and that this does not prejudge the outcome of further considerations on the issue of the WIM governance. We note that, although the WIM review was mandated by the COP, the substantive decision on the review was taken under the CMA, suggesting a clear direction of travel (towards the CMA) despite the ‘without prejudice’ language.


The Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWP) adopted in 2016 and its Gender Action Plan (GAP) adopted in 2017 were due to be reviewed at COP25. Negotiations on the new enhanced LWP and GAP proved difficult with finance and human rights being particularly controversial. On finance developing countries pushed for developed countries to provide the means of implementation for the work programme and action plan. On human rights, some developing countries objected to a general reference to universal human rights but struggled to convey how place, gender and race can impact vulnerability in different ways. In the end, the adopted decision[13] simply reiterates the preambular language used in the PA. On finance the text adopted is weaker than developing countries had hoped: it merely invites Parties (rather than specifically developed country Parties) to provide support for developing country Parties.

The enhanced GAP retains the five priority areas of 2017-2019: capacity building, knowledge management and communication; gender balance, participation and women’s leadership; coherence; gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation; and monitoring and reporting. Specific activities are listed for each priority area, with responsibilities, timelines and outputs, including two new activities: targeted capacity building for the advancement of gender-responsive climate solutions at all levels, and strengthening and accelerating implementation. However, clear indicators for measuring progress are not included. The next review will take place at SBI56, in 2022.


Adaptation was once again a priority issue for many developing countries: the African Group called for adaptation and mitigation to be balanced and proposed a new agenda item for the CMA on adaptation, and a new sub-item on the global goal for adaptation. A number of countries stressed the importance of the Adaptation Fund, and called on developed countries to scale up ambition on finance. Despite the attention given, COP25 produced few concrete results, with the Chile Madrid Time for Action decisions under the COP and CMA confining themselves to general statements, including the recognition that the current need for adaptation is significant, that greater levels of mitigation can reduce the need for additional adaptation efforts and reiterating earlier calls for a balance between adaptation and mitigation funding.


[1] Decision 1/CP.21, paras. 23 and 24
[2]Decision 1/CMA.2
[3]  Para.19, Decision 1/CP.25
[4] Para.7 Decision -/CP.25
[5] Para.5 Decision -/CP.25
[6] Para.75(a), Annex
[7] Para.37, Annex
[8] Para.67(b)
[9] Decision 18/CMA.1
[10] Decision -/CMA.2
[11] Paras 9 and 10, Decision -/CP.25
[12] Draft decision -/CMA.2