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COP22: Insights From the Action in Marrakech

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Note: This article was originally published on EUROBIZ.

For the 2nd consecutive year, the European Chamber sent a delegation of observers to the Conference of Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Labelled by many as the ‘African COP’ or the ‘COP of Action’, it was held in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco from 7th to 18th November. According to Renato Roldao, Consulting Director – Climate Change at ICF, and Chair of the European Chamber’s Carbon Market Sub-working Group, expectations this year were very high following the success of the COP21 in Paris in 2015. However, Roldao says that it was also clear from the beginning that COP22 would be much more a ‘working-level’ COP and the beginning of the process to transfer words into actions and prepare the means of implementing the Paris Agreement.

About a month has passed since the Paris Agreement entered into force on 4th November, 2016. As of 29thNovember, 2016, 114 of the 197 Parties to the Convention have ratified it and this number keeps growing. For those interested in more details of the progress that it is being made in terms of implementation of Paris Agreement and how the world is taking it forward you can follow it using the United Nations’ climate change progress tracker.

The fact that the Paris Agreement is there at all, as a robust and long-lasting agreement, is in itself a guarantee that will allow for the necessary actions and increasing level of ambition to feed into the overall process off controlling climate change. Only through ambitious and collective action can the objective of keeping any increase in global temperatures between 1.5°C and 2°C, with global emissions to peak as soon as possible, be achieved.

While in Marrakech I participated in two side events hosted at the International Emissions Association (IETA) business hub, dedicated to carbon markets. At these two events I had the opportunity to share my experience in supporting the design and implementation of the China national Emissions Trading Scheme (CETS) under the EU-China ETS Project (EuropeAid), the main design features of the CETS and the capacity building programme behind it to support the roll out of the world’s biggest carbon market. I presented side by side with representatives from industry, academia and government from around Asia, such as Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan. In total, I counted at least four side events that took place during the two weeks of COP22 where the CETS was the central focus, but where the emerging cooperation on carbon markets across Asia also clearly stood out.

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement “establishes a mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and support sustainable development” and the possible use of markets. The article provides new impetus to the development of cooperative approaches between carbon markets and I believe that the discussions that took place in Marrakech will help to operationalise this article further down the road.

The Marrakech Action Proclamation: for our Climate and Sustainable Development was one of the documents release at the end of COP22. While there is not much novelty in its content, it will play an important role in the process ahead as it unites nations in the determination to implement the Paris Agreement and associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is all very positive and shows that governments are willing to work together. It also sends a strong signal that we have unstoppable global momentum on climate change and sustainable development.

Another relevant document that was released in Marrakech was the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action. Among other things it sets the outlook to 2020, stating: “Party and non-Party stakeholders have emphasized the need for a coherent process to support greater ambition in the period from 2017-2020 in accordance with the Paris decision. In the lead up to COP 24 a step wise approach will be facilitated with a focus on the delivery of results.”

Key outcomes of COP22 and next steps

  • I saw unparalleled political will to act on climate change.
  • Marrakech featured close cooperation to advance critical issues, which can be seen in the conference outcomes. Governments took a crucial step towards writing the rules of the Paris Agreement. They outlined the finance, technology and capacity building support that enables the developing world to move to low-emission development and build resilience. Marrakech featured long-term de-carbonisation plans from major emitters and medium-income countries.
  • Marrakech shined a light on movement in markets and in the private sector, and it highlighted climate actions by local governments.

Business and city/local government level initiatives launched or scaled up at COP22

COP22 gave another boost to climate actions from companies that will be able to use science-based targets to reduce their emissions. Cities, sub-national government entities and individuals / civil society in general are already answering this call for action. Overall I noted that the main outcomes from Marrakech are in line with the European Chamber’s Carbon Market Sub-working Group Position Paper in terms of the role that needs to be played by business and local governments.

Despite the ‘Trump effect’, which could have disrupted the work taking place at COP22 in many ways and negatively impacted the morale of delegates and observers, the opposite effect could be observed at all corners of COP22. It sent a very strong message that the journey towards a climate-resilient world with a low carbon economy is on an irreversible pathway, and that the momentum to make it happen bottom-up is there.

Indeed it was almost unanimously agreed among those on the ground that this UNFCCC gathering in Marrakech reinforced the message to the world that multilateralism under the UN is the best approach to combatting climate change. Next year’s COP23 will be hosted by Fiji but will take place at the UNFCCC Secretariat Headquarters in Boon. It sets up 2018 as an important milestone to complete the work that was started in Marrakech.