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Speech by Acting President of the Government at inauguration of Climate Conference (COP25)

IFEMA (Trade Fair Institution), Madrid, Monday 2 December 2019

162 years ago, in 1857, the 'American Journal of Science' published an interesting scientific review that contained an original theory, "An atmosphere of carbon dioxide would give to our Earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature…must have necessarily resulted".

The origin of this research was an ingenious experiment, using thermometers, glass cylinders and a vacuum pump, someone theorised, the first person ever, about the existence of the greenhouse effect. This "someone" had a name, and it was a woman's name - Eunice Foote.

However, she did not publish the discovery, but rather her scientific colleague, Professor Joseph Henry. And the reason was simple - women were not allowed to present scientific work at that time. And we would have to wait 150 years for her contribution to be acknowledged.

I wanted to begin by evoking the memory of Eunice Foote for two reasons: the first is to revive her memory, and the memory of so many other female scientists from the injustice of oblivion. And the second is to bear witness to just how long science has been warning us of this phenomenon.

This double paradox should give us food for thought, which is that for too many decades, progress has been conceived behind the backs of women, and consequently, behind the backs of at least half of Humanity; furthermore, progress has been understood without taking into account the physical limits that make human life viable on our planet.

Women and the environment; the environment and women - here we have two realities that were ignored by Humanity for too long, but without which the present and future of Humanity are unimaginable.

Ladies and gentlemen; delegates,

Welcome to Spain, welcome to Madrid

This open country, this cosmopolitan city, welcomes you with open arms and great affection; but above all, with hope. The hope that this Conference will mark a before and an after.

Madrid will be, for the next few days, the global capital in the fight against the climate emergency, and also of multilateralism, which must be strengthened. It will be the capital of renewed climate ambition and a real commitment to action to benefit the planet.

But, above all, Madrid wants to be the capital of dialogue and the spoken word.

Dialogue between countries, as we are gathered here, united against a common enemy of the whole of Humanity.

And also dialogue with society. More than 1,500 groups and civil organisations; hundreds of companies committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda; and millions of voices of a whole generation of young people who refuse to be silent regarding the growing degradation of the planet. All of them are calling to be heard. And not as something tacked on to this Conference; not as a forum of parallel activities, but as the key players that they are in heading up this colossal challenge facing us. Consequently, they are entitled to speak and it is our duty to listen to their message.

Over the course of these days, Madrid will be even closer, Madam Minister, if that is possible, to Chile than on any other occasion. This COP, and I want to underline this publicly, is the Chile COP. Chile has organised this Conference with the mass deployment of efforts and leadership over recent years; and it is Chile that has pushed through such important actions as the Alliance for Climate Ambition, with the right cross-cutting perspective, which I also want to highlight here today.

I wish to publicly acknowledge the extraordinary work carried out by Chile, by a country with which Spain has so many ties. The success of this Conference belongs, above all, and first and foremost, to Chile.

Delegates,

We now know that any progress that is not sustainable does not warrant the name "progress".

We now have scientific certainty that man is behind the harm caused to the fragile equilibrium that allows life on Earth. And we also know that it is incumbent on man to repair this damage and prevent future harm. And as the Secretary-General said earlier, we have the means and the techniques to make this possible.

For many years, there were a whole host of different and irrational versions denying climate change. There were those who saw conspiracies and even a tyranny of supposed political correctness. Fortunately, there are only a handful of fanatics that deny the evidence nowadays.

Time has shown that with regard to the "alternative facts" that some invoke to deny the climate emergency, there is no alternative to taking action.

The battle against the climate emergency requires many things; it requires courage and determination above all. It requires solidarity and leadership as well. But it requires, above all, action, turning words into action.

2018 once again saw record concentrations of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere (we were told this earlier by the President of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, and also by the Secretary-General of the United Nations). And just a few days ago, the report by the United Nations Environment Programme warned of the increase in the emissions gap.

These are very worrying figures which endanger the attainment of the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit the increase in global temperatures on pre-industrial levels to 1.5 degrees.

We all know what this means: we must do more and, above all, do it faster (as the Secretary-General said earlier). We either mark a turning point here or the point of no return will have come and gone.

Achieving climate neutrality by 2050 requires audacity through a new form of multilateralism. No-one can escape by themselves from this challenge. No wall can be built high enough to protect any individual country from this threat, however powerful it may be, and now is the time to provide a response.

We must arrive at the Glasgow Conference in 2020 with much more ambitious national contributions and long-term strategies that lead to orderly, just and effective decarbonisation. Spain is ready to take this step forward. We will honour our commitments with more climate action and ambition.

We will increase the rate of emissions reductions committed to for the year 2030.

And we will do so under a premise, which the Secretary-General mentioned and which I feel is important to share with all of you, to leave no-one behind. A coherent Green Deal which must also be aligned with the goals set by the European Union.

A great deal to fairly assimilate the impact of this great transformation, this great transition that our economies need.

A great Green Deal to tie in innovation, digitalisation and decent jobs. Justice, together with Women and the Environment, is precisely the third powerful idea that must inspire our action.

This is the roadmap defined - in her speech last week - by the new President of the European Commission, whom I thank, as I do the other top EU officials who have recently been officially appointed to their posts, for their presence here in Madrid today.

In a time marked, delegates, by the silence of some countries, Europe has a lot to say in regard to this battle.

Firstly, because that is what our societies are demanding. But also for a question, if you will allow me, of elementary historical justice - if it was Europe that headed up the industrial revolution and fossil fuel capitalism, then it must be Europe that heads up decarbonisation.

We are at the gateway of a transition. And this pressing transition we are called to undertake must be just.

If we have learned anything from globalisation, it is that there must be no losers in this transformation; if anyone loses, we all lose.

The ecological transition must be a catalyst for change to combat inequality. This must involve justice and be fair. And Spain has taken on this mandate with determination, and will continue to take action.

We believe in the value of multilateralism; we also believe that all the policies that all countries must undertake should be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals set in the 2030 Agenda, which, in short, is a new global social contract for a changing world.

And we have taken on the message from the recent Summit in New York that the coalition of social and political drivers must be strengthened, a commission by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, our dear friend Antonio Guterres, who I deeply and truly thank from my heart for his leadership and his commitment to this cause.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ambition was always one of the driving forces of the human spirit. We had the ambition to explore the confines of space. We had the ambition to challenge the limits of scientific knowledge. We must now also have the ambition to preserve the fragile equilibrium that allows life in the only home we have, which is our planet.

I invite you to make this Conference a milestone in the fight against the climate emergency. To use politics for its true purpose, as an ethical multiplier to join wills and overcome through conviction.

Let's lead by example. Let's act with resolution guided by the great ideas that inspire responses to the challenges facing Humanity: gender equality, social justice and sustainability.

Humanity has reached a point, delegates, in which committing to its survival equates to fighting for a fairer world. That is the challenge we face so that future generations, when they look back, can say that Humanity rose to the occasion when the time was right.

Thank you very much and have a good COP.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation