Countries fast-tracked the political and practical aims of the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerated global climate action at the 2016 UN climate change conference that concluded in the early hours of Saturday morning in Marrakech.
The 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 22, hosted by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, saw nearly 500 heads of state or government and ministers attend. By the end of the two-week climate summit, more than 100 countries, representing over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had formally joined the Paris Agreement.
On November 15, Marrakech also hosted the first official meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement, its top governing body, following the accord’s early entry into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted last December.
The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep a global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The November 8 election of climate denier Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shock waves through the gathering, but it did not deter participants from moving forward in a spirit of determination.
The United States, Canada, Germany and Mexico announced ambitious climate strategies out to 2050, reflecting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement to achieve climate neutrality and a low-emission world in the second half of this century.
Over 190 governments agreed to the Marrakech Action Proclamation, which sends a strong message of global unity on climate change.
Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates, “I have never missed any of the 10 COP meetings during last 10 years. I leave you with the strong hope that we will have the courage, tenacity and wisdom to live up to our responsibility to future generations by protecting our only home: this beautiful planet Earth.”
“I have made climate change a priority since my first days in office,” said Ban. “Over the past 10 years, I have seen great progress in our common journey toward a low-emission, climate resilient future. We have proved the power of multilateral cooperation.”
Ban called the Paris Agreement is “a successful, new model for meeting some of humanity’s greatest challenges.”
A crucial outcome of the Marrakesh meeting was to move forward on writing the rule book, or operational manual, of the Paris Agreement that calls for a significant boost of transparency of action, including for measuring and accounting emissions reductions, the provision of climate finance, and technology development and transfer.
It includes work to design the adaptation communications, the primary vehicle under the Paris Agreement to share individual adaptation efforts and support needs.
Countries pressed forward on this and set a fast track date of 2018 for completion. Countries have already built the foundation for this by peer assessing each other’s actions to cut emissions through a transparent process that began in 2014.
Shortly before the meeting’s end, the 47-nation Climate Vulnerable Forum made a bold commitment to move towards 100 percent renewable energy between 2030 and 2050. Their declaration strengthens the call to limit global temperature rise to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.
Multi-billion and multi-million dollar packages of support for clean technologies; building capacity to report on climate action plans; and initiatives for boosting water and food security in developing countries were among the many new initiatives launched in Marrakech.
The Global Environment Facility, GEF, a multilateral funding facility, announced the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency backed by 11 developed country donors providing US$50 million worth of funding.
Countries pledged more than $81 million to the Adaptation Fund, surpassing its target for the year. Countries pledged over $23 million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network, CTCN, which supports developing countries with climate technology development and transfer.
The Green Climate Fund announced the approval of the first two proposals for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans – Liberia for $2.2 million and Nepal for $2.9 million. Another 20 countries are expected to have their proposals approved soon with up to $3 million each. Overall, the GCF is on track to approve $2.5 billion worth of projects.
During COP 22, governments learned that in 2016 more than 30 projects for cutting emissions with technology transfer objectives were approved by the GEF, with $188.7 million in GEF funding and $5.9 billion in co-financing.
Businesses, investors, cities and local governments issued new climate change commitments, adding to the thousands announced in the run-up to the Paris climate conference.
A club of subnational governments, the Under2 Coalition, who have committed to reduce their emissions by at least 80 percent by 2020, announced their membership has grown to 165.
The combined GDP of these 165 member governments is close to $26 trillion – a third of the global economy – and cover a population of around one billion people living in North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said, “The landmark Paris Agreement set the course and the destination for global climate action. Here in Marrakesh, governments underlined that this shift is now urgent, irreversible and unstoppable.”
This new era of implementation and action for climate and for sustainable development was captured in the Marrakech Action Proclamation. “I would like to pay tribute to the Government of Morocco and the President of the Conference, Salaheddine Mezouar, for their remarkable success. COP 22 has been what it needed to be, a COP of action that has accelerated progress under the Paris Agreement across finance, new initiatives, ambition and solidarity between nations and across Continents,” Espinosa said.
Mezouar, Morocco’s environment minister, who presided over the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, or COP 22, said, “The Kingdom of Morocco is fully engaged in the success of this COP and will energetically carry out its role as President. At the outcome of the last 15 days, our vision has been consolidated and we are working to make concrete progress and to carry out breakthrough actions from now until the end of 2017.”
“It will be necessary to respect the commitment of $100 billion dollars from now until 2020. Faced with the magnitude of what is required for dealing with the impacts of climate change, turning billions into trillions is indispensable. 2017 must be the year of large scale projects, of mobilizing finance, and accessing financial facilities that will be necessary for adaptation,” Mezouar explained.
Espinosa said, “During COP 22, the strength, the support for and the robustness of the Paris Agreement was furthered underlined, with nine more ratifications received at the UN in New York and the promise of many more to come. Nations reaffirmed that the agreement is in their national interests and a key catalyst to a better, more prosperous future for their citizens.”
COP 22 took first steps in making the platform concerning local communities and indigenous peoples operational. This marks a new era of addressing the concerns and needs of indigenous peoples in the climate process. Once operational, the platform will allow for an exchange of experiences and sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation and ultimately lead to more climate actions.
The UN Environment Programme announced a new global program, the Global Peatlands Initiative, which aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and save thousands of lives by protecting peatlands, the world’s largest terrestrial organic soil carbon stock.
The initiative will mobilize governments, international organizations and academia in a targeted effort to protect peatlands, which contain almost 100 times more carbon than tropical forests.
The Government of Indonesia announced it is implementing a moratorium on clearing intact peatland. The action builds on Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s announcement at last year’s Forest Action Day in Paris, to end new and review existing peat concessions.
Nineteen African Capital Markets Authorities and Exchanges, accounting for 26 African countries, signed and endorsed the Marrakech Pledge for Fostering Green Capital Markets in Africa.
The Solar Impulse Foundation launched the World Alliance for Clean Technologies as a legacy to the first ever solar flight around the world. Its goal is to federate the main actors in the field of clean technologies to create synergies, give advice to governments, and promote profitable solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental and health challenges.
At the close, Fiji was announced as the incoming President of the 2017 UN climate conference, COP23, which will be hosted by the UNFCCC in Bonn.