‘All guns blazing’ as Madrid races to host climate summit

With 10 days left until the COP25, Spain is working at breakneck speed to pull off the logistical “miracle” of organising the world’s top climate summit in just a few short weeks.
A vast event which runs from December 2-13, the UN climate summit had been due to take place in Chile until its crisis-hit government pulled out on October 30 following a wave of deadly civil unrest.
Within days, the venue was switched to Madrid after Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offered to play host, hailing the acceptance of his offer as “excellent news”.
But it has left the Spanish capital barely a month to pull off a major international summit with 25,000 delegates from 200 countries.
Those attending were also caught out by the change, with Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg — who refuses to fly because of the carbon emissions — having to radically re-think her travel plans.
Having already made it halfway from Sweden to Chile by train, boat and electric car, she quickly sought help to hitch a ride back to Europe — and is currently crossing the Atlantic by catamaran.
Under pressure, the Spanish government has unblocked resources to cover the cost of playing host — an estimated 60 million euros ($66 million) — while Madrid officials have been at pains to stress the city’s capacity to host such an event. “Madrid is in a position — and in record time — to be the centre of the world,” enthused Mayor Jose Luis Martinez Almeida, saying the city had all the public services and infrastructure needed “to host large international events”.
The summit, which seeks to boost commitments to fight climate change, will be held in the IFEMA exhibition centre in northeastern Madrid. The venue hosts the FITUR international tourism fair which, with 250,000 participants, is one of the world’s largest.
Organising an event like the COP25 would normally take between six months and a year, an IFEMA spokeswoman said, while indicating that preparations were moving “at breakneck speed” and would “be finished in time”.
The Madrid hotels association, the AEHM, said it was “very well prepared” in terms of beds, while city hall said that within the space of less than a week, it had signed up more than 2,000 volunteers.
“This COP is a miracle,” a diplomatic source said.
“It is extraordinary that a country would propose hosting, and be capable of organising, such an event like this so quickly.”
Environment Minister Teresa Ribera said on Thursday Spain “would be able to put on all the events” but that credit should be given to Santiago for its meticulous preparation, indicating Chile would still be chairing the summit. — AFP