IN-DEPTH: Morocco, a focus on the COP 22 host’s climate action

While celebrations for the Paris Agreement will continue with the High-Level Signing Ceremony in New York on April 22nd, technical work has already begun in preparation of COP22. Hosted by the Government of Morocco, the forthcoming climate talks will take place in Marrakesh from 7-18 November 2016. The country is resolved in showcasing the world its leadership on climate change in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

A first step along this line was taken on February 4th, when King Mohammed VI inaugurated the first plant of the Ouarzazate solar complex, a giant project of concentrated solar power (CSP) aiming to reach a 580 MW capacity.

The country is the only in North Africa with no fossil resources and is currently importing 91 percent of the energy supplied from abroad, including gas from Algeria and oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Russia.

Such energy dependency has prompted the government to be a forerunner of renewable energy development. Launched in 2009, the National Energy Strategy and the related National Priority Action Plan (PNAP) set ambitious targets for wind, solar, and hydropower capacity on the order of 2GW each. If met, the targets translate to having 42 percent of the country’s total installed electricity generation capacity being deployed by renewables by 2020.

Morocco further raised the stake with the release of its Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC) in June 2015. The document sets a target of 50 percent of installed electricity production capacity by renewables by 2025, together with a reduction in energy consumption of 15 percent by 2030. It also pledges a substantial reduction of fossil fuel subsidies, building on the Subsidy Removal Programme, which was launched in 2013 to contrast the growing budget deficit resulting from the heavy subsidization. The transformation of the energy sector is outlined as a key strategy for attaining the ambitious emissions reductions included in the INDC.

The country pledges an unconditional target of -13 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to a business as usual (BAU) scenario. However, the figure could substantially increase (up to 32 percent) in case international financial support is provided.

In line with other developing countries, the Moroccan INDC places particular importance on adaptation. The country is exposed to a number of climate-related hazards including drought, floods, desertification and sea level rise.

Impacts on water availability are of particular concern, especially when considering the already worrisome present situation. According to the World Resource Institute (WRI) Aqueduct World Risk Atlas, most of Moroccan territory has to deal with a medium to extremely high water risk, which is expected to increase by a factor of 2.8 by 2040.

With more of 90 percent of arable land being rain fed, a contraction between 15–40 percent of primary agricultural production could be experienced by the end of the century. Consistently, Moroccan quantified adaptation goals for 2020 and 2030 are mainly targeting water management measures including, for instance, the substitution of water withdrawal from over exploited aquifers by withdrawals from surface water, desalinization projects, the reuse of treated waste-water, and water savings across domestic and productive uses. Besides the water sector, attention is also drawn on reforestation (+200,000 hectares) as well as measure to combat soil erosion.

How do the Moroccan commitments compare with those of other North African neighbours? The table shows both mitigation and adaptation pledges by Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt  as contained in their respective INDCs.

Morocco 13% 32% Baseline scenario target water, agriculture, forests, erosion
Algeria 7% 22% Baseline scenario target water, agriculture, health, transport
Tunisia 13% 41%  Intensity target water, agriculture, health, coastal zones, tourism, ecosystems
Egypt “high CO2 mitigation levels” n.a. n.a. water, agriculture, health, coastal zones, tourism, energy, rural areas, population and roads

Sectors prioritized for adaptation action are pretty similar across the region and mainly focus on the water sector, given the projected impacts of decreased precipitation and rising temperatures on the scarce regional water endowment. Mitigation efforts are instead more differentiated.

Egypt’s qualitative and non-quantified commitment seems minimal and entirely conditioned by foreign financial, technological, and technical assistance. Tunisian pledges are undoubtedly more ambitious, opting for a 41 percent reduction in carbon intensity conditional to the provision of external support of estimated USD 18 billion. However, the chosen intensity target (tCO2eq/GDP) is somehow ambiguous, as it could be met both in the case of an increase of GDP dominating the increase in emissions, as well as in the case of an actual reduction of emitted CO2 . Algeria is instead more in line with Moroccan pledges, committing to a 7 percent unconditional reduction against the baseline scenario and a conditional one of 22 percent.

On the whole, Morocco’s pledges seem more ambitious with respect to its neighboring countries, confirming its regional leadership towards low carbon and climate resilient development. It was not by chance that the 2015 Climate Change Performance Index Report has included Morocco in the top 10 of the most climate policy engaged countries. The report annually evaluates and compares the climate-protection performance of 58 countries accounting together for more than 90 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions.


This article was first published on ICCG’s International Climate Policy Magazine n. 40.


(Image: Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Thermo Solar Combined Cycle Power Plant. Photo credit: Philippe Roos /Flickr)