As the hottest year on record draws to a close, countries will gather in the historic Moroccan city of Marrakech from the 7th to 18th of November for the 22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under a new Executive Secretary (Mexican, Patricia Espinosa), negotiators will attempt to chart the way forwards towards meeting the objectives of the Convention and implementing the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement passed the threshold for entry into force earlier than anticipated after being ratified by 55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions on October 4th, meaning that the Agreement will enter into force on 4th November and the Marrakech meeting will also host the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1).
Since the Paris Summit, delegates have met all together only once in Bonn where they launched a new working group (the APA), agreed its agenda and shared initial views on the way forward. Due to the rapid ratification process the APA and other bodies have not finalised decisions to present to the COP and CMA. The main substantive issues and challenges facing governments in Marrakech therefore remain largely unchanged.
A critical issue in Marrakech is how the world will achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal pursuing efforts to stay under 1.5°C warming, and the 2016 “facilitative dialogue” could potentially see fiery exchanges between countries over how to ramp up ambition and financial support in the pre-2020 window. With recognition that the 2°C goal does not provide a safe guardrail, with studies under way by the IPCC on the 1.5°C target, and with a narrow window to avoid missing the 1.5°C target altogether countries will have to increase their efforts to reduce emissions under the pre-2020 period of the Kyoto Protocol as well as turn their post-2020 Paris pledges into concrete actions. If not, civil society groups worry they may be tempted to turn to untested “negative emissions technologies” such as bio energy with carbon-capture and storage (BECCS) to avoid warming of up to 3.5°C – a plan which is unlikely to work at scale and likely would conflict with food security and environmental integrity and place a furtherunfair burden on vulnerable countries
due to its huge demand for land.
Sharing the effort fairly
The Marrakech meeting’s focus on pre-2020 action is also reflected in a new report “Setting the Path to 1.5°C“, to be launched by a diverse coalition of civil society groups who made a splash last year in Paris with their analysis of countries’ post-2020 pledges, which highlighted how developing countries are as a whole much closer to taking on their fair share of the collective effort than the developed countries. South Africa’s Ambassador Diseko brought the findings of that report into the negotiating sessions of the Paris Agreement, after previously likening imbalance in the negotiations to apartheid – similar dramas could ensue in Marrakech if countries perceive the principle of equity is being undermined.
Dealing with climate reality
In Marrakech, countries will discuss the 2016 review of the “loss and damage” mechanism-which develops policy frameworks to help communities deal with a variety of climate change impacts-with developing countries laying down a moral imperative for developed countries to provide the necessary finance. Though 135 million people are at risk of displacement due to land degradation and tens of millions risk being impoverished as their livelihoods are threatened, climate change institutions which would help-like the loss and damage mechanism and its newly established displacement task force-remain under-resourced and funding for adaptation remains inadequate. Anticipating climate change to exacerbate displacement around the world, civil society groups meeting in Marrakech will mount a call for governments to address the gaps in legal protection for “climate migrants.”
Supporting the energy transformation
In Marrakech governments will launch ambitious new efforts such as the Least Developed Country Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Initiative, and the Global Programme for Renewable Energy and Energy Access Transformation, building on and expanding the progress made by the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, which has so far attracted $10 billion in pledges. If the negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement hit a roadblock, initiatives such as these can offer some good news given their potential for both reducing emissions and improving energy access for the world’s poor-provided the pledges materialise into new projects.
Finance roadmap to 2020
A major conflict among countries is likely to arise in Morocco over finance after developed conutries released a “roadmap” to the $100 billion per year which they have committed to find by 2020.Developing countries and civil society groups have already severely criticised the roadmap for “double counting” existing aid flows and exaggerating of the rate at which public money can leverage private funds. Concerns about the new “roadmap” include that it provides no scope for increased financing from developed countries and multilateral financial institutions over the pledges made in Paris. With the costs of developing countries’ Paris pledges expected to exceed $4 trillion, these criticisms will have to be addressed if countries are to implement the Agreement successfully.
The way forward
There are likely to be “process fights” as countries meet in various formations over the two weeks. The APA will meet as a single “contact group” three times, with informal talks on each substantive agenda item running in two parallel sessions. Meanwhile discussions under the subsidiary bodies will happen at the same time. The first CMA will open on November 15th with many ministers and some Heads of State expected to attend.
Many countries are concerned that the CMA should not be the body to decide on its own rules-as only 87 of 197 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement, and are therefore not able to actively participate in the CMA. If these concerns are not allayed then difficulties will arise.
The question of who can and can’t take part in talks about how to implement the Paris Agreement also has the potential to create further frictions after the May session in Bonn saw civil society groups call for the UNFCCC to “kick out big polluters” due to their conflict of interest, resulting in a heated debate between countries.
Although it will not match the high-drama of Paris, the Marrakech meeting will nevertheless see some challenging questions raised over how to fairly increase pre-2020 ambition, as well as how to ensure the $100 billion is really flowing to developing countries for projects that cut emissions and that help communities deal with climate change impacts.