UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa, 2nd left, and Morocco’s Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, centre, celebrate after the proclamation of Marrakech, at the COP22 climate change conference, in Marrakech, Morocco, on November 17 (Photo: UNFCCC)
Last month, dozens of world leaders convened to discuss the next steps to the historic Paris Climate Agreement, signed one year ago by 196 State Parties, which marked the world’s commitment to keeping warming ‘well below 2C’.
COP22 began on November 7 in Marrakech, Morocco, lasted for eleven days, presided over by Salaheddine Mezouar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco. The conference was slightly overshadowed by the US presidential election, which took place on the second day of the COP; the outcome of which, some fear, may hinder the world’s ability to meet climate targets. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, even though the US remains one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.
Some attendees of the conference felt that the news might actually incite momentum to get more done on the ‘rulebook’ to follow through with Paris before Trump actually takes office in January. During previous COPs, agenda items were often deferred until later meetings, but according to the Guardian, “Hare (Australian climate scientist) says one impact of a pending Trump administration could be to speed things up, rather than slow them down. Instead of pushing some agenda items on to next year, there was ‘some manoeuvring’ to get as much done as possible before Trump takes over.”
So far, Trump has appointed climate change sceptic and friend of the fossil fuel industry, Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; and he supports exploring all forms of domestic fossil fuel production. In Marrakech, there was a discussion of coal-fired power plants, as virtually all would have to be shut down in the near future to stay on track with emissions reductions that the 115 parties that have ratified the Paris Agreement signed on to do. Hare’s Climate Analytics also released a report looking at what the Paris Agreement means for the coal power industry. The report says practically every coal power plant in the world will need to be switched off by 2050 to avoid global warming of 1.5C. Add only 10 years for a target of 2C.
Even so, nations participating in the conference expressed unwavering commitment to the deal, and went so far as to make a somewhat political statement, signing The Marrakech Action Proclamation, a letter expressing that all nations need to honour the promises they made in Paris. The talks hit a few roadblocks with procedural issues, though the conference was considered to be relatively uncontroversial.
The Chair of the Alliance for Small Island States and Environment Minister for the Maldives, Thoriq Ibrahim, reminded developed countries of their commitment to raise $100billion for overall climate finance by 2020. $81million was raised for the Climate Adaptation Fund at the conference, a fund to help developing countries finance projects that will help them cope with the effects of climate change. Still, there was contention about funding gaps; developing nations are seeking to quadruple amounts in funding they can access if they are to invest in renewable energy infrastructures and bypass the polluting practices that got so many wealthy nations where they are today.
During the conference, 11 more countries ratified the Paris Agreement: Australia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Finland, Gambia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and the UK. Currently, the number of ratifying parties has reached 115, as Israel ratified on November 22, a few days after the conference ended.
Overall, the conference showed continued commitment to keeping global temperatures down. Marrakech was intended as a meeting to renew pledges among signatories, create a concrete roadmap to stay on top of targets and get more financing in place for those nations suffering the worst effects of climate change. Though the US election could have created tension, it seemed to have brought nations even closer together in their commitment to tackling the issue. Paris was the hump the world needed to get over, and now that the legally binding document has been ratified, nations can move onto their action plans.
According to the UN, “The Conference successfully demonstrated to the world that the implementation of the Paris Agreement is underway and the constructive spirit of multilateral cooperation on climate change continues.”
Sarah Sakeena Marshall, B.S. Environmental Policy