The 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change doubled as the first meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement agreed to at COP21 in 2015. Optimists in Marrakech thought that with so much global enthusiasm over the Paris Agreement, this was to be a conference of actions and that the world would, at last, see some concrete global actions to tackle global warming.
At the end, there were only a few reasons for cautious optimism.
First, the actions under the Paris Agreement will be taken only after 2020, but if ambitious actions are not taken before then, 2020 may be too late. Second, the key action element in the Paris Agreement is what is known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. As the name implies, these are collections of the means or pledges made by nations about steps they would take to cut emissions to ensure the planet doesn’t experience catastrophic global temperature increase by the close of the century.
The Paris Agreement set 1.5 degrees Celsius to well-below 2 degrees Celsius increase as a target. This was one of the attractions that the Paris Agreement held for many. By the time countries’ pledges were collated, it became known that these contributions would see the world warming by over 3 degrees Celsius by the end of this Century—a clearly catastrophic prospect for small island states, Africa, and other vulnerable areas.
One red flag that came from the COP is the divergent interpretation of the means of implementation of key aspects of the Paris Agreement:
Developing nations hold that industrialized nations should provide finance and technology for adaptation measures and for transformation of energy systems based on the equity principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
Industrialized nations appeared more concerned to de-link adaptation actions and support for developing countries from the Paris Agreement platform. They focused more on expanding the basis for carbon trading rather than fundamental emissions reduction.
Still on the Global Climate Fund issue, there is another growing divide. While developing countries believe that this should be new finance, the rich nations present a mode of funding that allows for double counting and would include grants, aid monies, and expansion of private-sector finance.
The tragedy of the situation is that the execution of many of the NDCs pledged by developing countries are to be achieved on the conditions that new funding and technological transfer would be available.
The nations urged themselves to increase ambition with regard to emissions reduction before 2020, but again, these actions will be based on NDCs and not what is required by science.
The meetings ended with the Marrakech Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development, but without a plan of action for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. That is what will be negotiated in future COPs. The closure of the COP was marked with expected applause, and the next two conferences will take place in Germany and Poland respectively.
On the whole this was a rather subdued COP. The atmosphere was further dampened by the high level of uncertainty brought on by the surprising outcome of the U.S. election, and Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton for the office of President.
Would the U.S. renege on the Paris Agreement, or even pull out of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change? What would be the future of global climate action if these happened? Observers saw the outcome of COP22 as an indication that the world would continue with actions on climate change irrespective of the rise of climate deniers.
While the U.S. election cast a cloud over Marrakech, the news from Standing Rock and the support it was galvanizing across the United States brought hope that even if governments do not see the urgency of the climate challenge, the citizens do.
The citizens are resolute about tackling the problem at source. And while the world dithers, this may be the moment for philanthropy to step up support for climate justice actions at the grassroots and by so doing build resilience and forge alternative visions of a safer future.