In the early morning of last Saturday, negotiations at COP22 in Marrakech came to an end. If it’s unclear to you what exactly came out of this year’s UNFCCC climate conference –or worse, you were unaware that one was happening– you have come to the right place. In this article I summarize what happened, and what didn’t. So without further ado, let’s dive into it.
If you would ask me if I am enthusiastic about the proceedings of COP22, my spontaneous reaction would probably be ‘meh’. It has to be said: it was supposed to become the COP of action, where the actual implementation of the applauded Paris Agreement would take shape. Indeed, the conference started with very good vibes thanks to the several signs of progress and ambition over the last couple of months: the first-ever cap on aviation emissions, the phase-out of potent greenhouse gasses in refrigerators and the adoption of the Paris Agreement long before anyone had dared to hope last December when the document was signed.
But the mood got a first heavy blow when the news of Trump’s election rolled in. The US is the second largest emitter in the world and number one in emissions per capita. Many developing countries like China have coupled their emission reduction ambitions to the condition that the US would take serious action. When a climate denier gets the lead over the United States, barking around about stepping out of the Paris Agreement as soon as he can and canceling Obama’s efforts like the Clean Power Plan, the future looks bleak.
But don’t despair! Soon a new spirit arose at the COP: one man will not stop the Paris Agreement and the momentum for change that has been building up ever since its conceiving. Possibly stirred by Donald’s threats, the Marrakech Action Proclamation was released at the end of the second week, iterating the ambitions outlined in the Paris Agreement and calling for ‘a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development’. A group of more than 360 multinational’s and internationals wrote an open letter to Trump to urge him to continue agreed curbs on global warming and move towards a low-carbon economy.
The quick revival of spirits soon drowned in the technicalities of the practical implementation of the Paris Agreement though. COP22 didn’t really fulfill the expectations to tie up the loose ends. Of all the 57 decisions taken, most were procedural in nature. With other words, they agreed that certain things needed to be agreed upon (*pffff*) and when and where that should happen. For example, the deadline for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement is set to COP24 in 2018, with a progress review at COP23. Those who wanted action NOW –like me– are disappointed. Things need to speed up, seriously guys.
Most of the points I predicted in my blog post two weeks ago passed by. But discussions bogged down in the perennial divergence of opinions. There is still no clarity on the 100$ billion climate fund which should kick into action by 2020. A delicate point of disagreement is the balance between mitigation and adaptation. So far the focus has been on the first, disproportionally benefitting developed countries. It is a bit nasty of them to be so stubborn when it comes to putting money on the table that will not directly flow back to them. Oh, and one of the most pressing questions –how to peak emissions before 2020– has not been answered in a way that would give climate scientists a peaceful night’s sleep.
But it wouldn’t be an article worth the Shift without some good news as well. Where the official outcomes of COP22 are meager, exciting stuff has been going on in the coulisse. 48 of the poorest developing countries, convening in the so-called Climate Vulnerable Forum, committed going for 100% renewable energy by 2050, affirming their belief that development and clean energy can thrive together. That’s what I call climate leadership!
Further, our German friends were the first to release a mid-century plan to become a carbon neutral economy by 2050, followed by long-term strategies of Canada, Mexico and the US (although the last one might become a rather theoretical exercise now Trump is about to move in the Oval Office). The 2050 Pathways Platform was launched to stimulate other countries and organizations to follow their example.
COP22 gave birth to –yet another– fund which is meant to encourage transparency efforts. Canada, Australia and Germany and others gave it a 50$ million cash injection to give it a head start. As I mentioned in my preview on COP22, transparency is of uttermost importance to the success of the Paris Agreement which gives nations sovereignty over their emission reductions. Proper reporting and monitoring are thus necessary for the naughty students in the room who try to cheat.
As a final thought, we can say that COP22 will get into the history books as the somewhat boring aftermath of COP21. Loose ends of the Paris Agreement have to be tied up and the process just started and is due to take until 2018. On the other hand, many side agreements show that the momentum for change is more alive than ever, and that even a man like Trump is not going to stop that.