On December 6, over half a million protesters marched outside the U.N. climate summit in Madrid, demanding that world leaders take action (BBC). Last year, greenhouse gas emissions rose 0.6%, leading climate activist Greta Thunberg to say worldwide school strikes had “achieved nothing” (Guardian). As climate negotiations reached a close on December 13, world leaders scrambled to reach agreement on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which creates rules on carbon markets and carbon offsetting, which allows cuts in emissions elsewhere by funding programs like reforestation. Island nations and European states want to make sure Article 6 does not allow double-counting of carbon credits, including from previous schemes such as the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (Reuters, Reuters).

Critics worry that current negotiations may weaken climate efforts, pointing out that Article 6 does not include protections for native forests, nor account for carbon emissions from biomass burning (Mongabay). Scientists say U.N. talks still fail to address the true scale of the crisis, getting bogged down in technicalities rather than recognizing the climate emergency (Guardian). Island nations facing sea-level rise accuse developed countries of eroding climate objectives “clause by clause, discussion by discussion,” according to Simon Stiell, environment minister of Grenada (Reuters).

In an effort to bolster ambition at the summit, the European Commission unveiled its European Green Deal on December 11. The plan includes a mechanism to help fossil-fuel dependent countries transition to renewable energy and proposals to reduce emissions to 50% of 1990 levels by 2030. Several Eastern European states state they will not sign off on the deal without financial and other guarantees (BBC).