SPECIAL COP22 – Countries commit to put Paris deal into action by 2018 but much work remains to be done

The Marrakech climate talks closed early on Saturday (Nov. 19) after two weeks of subtle diplomacy and technical discussions.

Soon after its start, what was meant to be the “COP of action” was overshadowed by the results of US presidential election of Nov. 8 and by uncertainties over the potential U-turn the world’s second largest emitter might take under the new administration.

After a first week played on the defensive, government representatives and climate delegates on Thursday (Nov. 17) issued a joint statement, the Marrakech Action Proclamation, calling for “the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority”. Although nothing really new is in the contents (the proclamation basically retraces the commitments and targets included in the Paris Agreement, pushes for raising ambition to achieve the Paris long term goals and ratifying the Doha Amendment by those countries who have not done it yet), the statement was interpreted as a signal of unity and determination in sticking to the path set at COP21 in Paris last year, despite the new US presidency.

After Paris, the focus has shifted to implementing action, and COP22 was the first important moment to start defining mechanisms and rules to achieve the Paris targets (which are still out of reach, according to several experts and studies. Also the latest World Energy Outlook just issued by IEA highlights that implementing current international pledges will only slow down the projected rise in energy-related carbon emissions). No conclusive developments were expected at the Marrakech talks, but some starting advancements on key issues. These are reported in a set of 35 decisions adopted at the end of the Conference.

Duty assignment

The governing body of the Paris Agreement (the CMA, including all countries who have ratified the deal) met for the first time on Nov. 15.  As foreseen by hypothesis circulated in the previous months, the CMA1 asked the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (codename: APA) and the subsidiary bodies to continue their preparatory work and define rules and framework to make the Paris Agreement fully operational. The APA is responsible of defining the procedure related to the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the transparency framework, the global stocktake and the compliance/implementation issues, whereas the cooperative mechanisms, the accounting framework for finance and technological support, the IPCC role in informing the global stocktake and the NDC registry are discussed within the two UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies (SBI and SBSTA).

The (good) news is that countries agreed to complete the overall task by 2018 at COP24 to be held in Poland, where the CMA should adopt all rules and procedures. Next year, at COP23, the CMA will reconvene to review and assess the progress made.

The APA is also asked to prepare arrangements and operating modalities for the Adaptation Fund to serve the Paris Agreement. The Adaptation Fund was established under the Kyoto Protocol and its role in the post-Kyoto climate regime monopolized the discussion in several sessions at COP22, Devex explains. The final document invites Parties to submit their views on the governance and institutional arrangements, safeguards and operating modalities for the Adaptation Fund to work under the Paris Agreement, by 31 March 2017.

The rules of the game

In order to track actions and progress by all countries involved, the Paris agreement will need a robust transparency and accountability system covering NDCs, finance and technical transfers. The APA is in charge of developing common rules, procedures and guidelines to enhance the UNFCCC’s current Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system by 2018. At COP22 delegates mostly discussed the degree of flexibility for requirements developing and poorer countries should comply with, reflecting “their different capabilities and national circumstances”.

No significant news emerged in Marrakech about the modalities and procedures of the compliance committee that will be in charge of facilitating the implementation of the Paris agreement’s provisions.

Leave none behind (or how to help those who can’t make it by themselves)

In Marrakech richer countries reaffirmed the climate finance goal of mobilizing USD100 billion per year by 2020. Before the start of COP22, a roadmap was released to describe how developed countries plan to deliver the promised target. However, further work is needed to define common rules and standards to track climate finance disbursed and received, and to clarify what kind of financing tools (loans, grants etc.) should be counted as for the USD 100 billion goal.

On the adaptation finance side, although the Green Climate Fund (GCF) announced the approval of the first two proposals for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans ($2.2 million for Liberia and $2.9 million for Nepal) and another 20 plans are on their way to be approved, delegates denounced little progress on the effort to increase funding to help developing and vulnerable countries in coping with climate impacts. Overall developed country Parties are uerget to step up efforts aimed at achieving a greater balance between mitigation and for adaptation.

The capacity-building issue also received attention during the Marrakech talks. A new coalition – the NDC Partnership – was launched to support developing countries in achieving their domestic climate actions and accessing technical and financial support. Negotiators agreed on the functioning structure of the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB), that was established at COP21 and will meet for the first time in May 2017. The first annual focus of the PCCB will be the NDCs implementation.

On the critical topic of Loss & Damage, delegates succeeded in reaching an agreement on the on the ExCom Report and Warsaw International Mechanism’s review  that through a new five-year framework will deal with impacts not addressed by planned adaptation.

The road ahead

Closing the Plenary, COP22 President Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar, thanked all the Parties and the staff for “the energy, passion and solidiraty” that finally prevailed on the difficulties connected to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. This demonstrated that the Paris Agreement is “irreversible and already underway”. Underlining that there is a lot of work still to do, Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said that we can celebrate tonight for the progress achieved in Marrakech but on Monday we need to get back to work.

Countries overall expressed satisfaction with the final outcome, especially for the 2018 deadline for the adoption of the rulebook and the steps ahead in terms of transparency for finance and capacity building. However, developing countries groups, like the G77 + China, Nicaragua and Bolivia, remarked the need to step up efforts toward the balance between adaptation and mitigation, on clarity related to long-term financial support to developing countries as well as on pre-2020 action. Endorsing the Marrakech’s outcome, the United States reassured the audience that “Momentum cannot and will not be stopped”.

Finally, as in the past few years, many non-Party stakeholders took the COP as the opportunity to push bottom-up initiatives forward. As reported by the UNFCCC’s final release, “Multi-billion and multi-million dollar packages of support” to clean technologies, capacity building, water and food security in developing countries were announced in the last two weeks. In particular, Climate Champions Laurence Tubiana and Hakima El Haité launched the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action with the aim to facilitate and catalyze the pace of climate action by Parties and non-Party stakeholders in the period 2017 to 2020. To track progress but also showcase successful initiatives, the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA), a platform launched in Lima, will continue to register commitments voluntarily undertaken by cities, regions, private companies and investors to address climate change.


Want to know more? Follow the ICCG-FEEM Seminar “Was COP22 a real “COP of action”?” on November 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm »

(Image: Earth balloon at COP22 in Marrakech. Photo credit: Takver/Flickr)