Energy Insight: COP 22 in Marrakech

The 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC in Marrakech was expected to be a low-key COP, since Paris had achieved a major breakthrough and Marrakech would discuss its implementation. However, the US presidential election during the conference prompted some uncertainty about future climate action. To sustain coordinated international efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, it was considered important for this COP to provide a signal that countries were proceeding with implementation of the Paris Agreement. 

Key Outcomes

·        A two-year work programme to implement the Paris Agreement was set out: By 2018, a rulebook specifying methodologies for national climate pledges and how to monitor progress towards them should be established to provide clarity and transparency; the ‘facilitative dialogue’, which after the Paris Agreement is scheduled for 2018 and by which countries shall take stock how close they are to the long term goal of net zero emissions in the second half of the century, and the rulebook shall inform updated or new NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), which countries are supposed to declare by 2020

·        Finance: At the COP in Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries promised to provide $100bn per year in funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation to developing countries. It remains controversial which finance flows are to be included in this sum and thus assessments about the progress towards this goal differ. Climate finance was the issue around which the US election created the most uncertainty. Adaptation measures have trailed mitigation efforts by far, even though the Paris Agreement envisages a 50/50 distribution of the funds between mitigation and adaptation. At Marrakech countries agreed on the need to scale up adaptation finance and to strive for a better balance between adaptation and mitigation. They also declared they would continue to work on and discuss the topic, though some countries had hoped for a stronger wording. It was suggested that the Adaptation Fund set up for the Kyoto Protocol should be continued under the Paris Agreement (which supersedes the Kyoto Protocol), but an agreement was not reached. Instead countries agreed to submit their views on this topic until the end of March 2017.

·         Loss and damage: Parties agreed in Marrakech to a five year workplan to address climate impacts beyond adaptation such as migration and loss of culture and identity.

Activities and outcomes besides formal negotiations

Maybe even more interesting than the formal negotiations at COP 22 were informal events and discussions, where cities, states and businesses could present their activities and development plans. The 2050 Pathways Platform was launched as a permanent forum to share experience and knowledge about long term decarbonisation strategies to 2050 and enable collaboration. It was joined by 22 countries (among them the UK, the US and the EU), 15 cities (via the C40 network), 17 states, regions and cities, via the Under2 Coalition and 196 businesses, via the We Mean Business Coalition and the Science Based Targets initiative. So far 5 countries (the US, Germany, France, Canada and Mexico) have published 2050 pathways. However a recent LSE study concluded that only 4 G20 members (France, the UK, Germany and the EU) currently have policies in place which are consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Furthermore 47 of the world’s poorest countries founded the Climate Vulnerable Forum. They committed to generating 100% of their energy from renewable sources as soon as possible and to update their NDCs before 2020.

For the first time, fossil fuel companies were attending the conference, which was seen by some as a way to increase the impact of the COP but criticised by others for involving an inherent conflict of interest. As part of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative 10 of the world’s largest oil companies pledged to invest $1b in technologies reducing the sector’s emissions.

What happens next

COP 24 (in December 2018) will be of particular importance due to the Paris Agreement rulebook and the stock taking of emission reduction plans, and also due to the special report by the IPCC on 1.5°, which will be published in 2018.  By 2020 countries have to declare revised NDCs and in 2023 there will be the first formal ‘global stocktake’ on mitigation, adaptation and finance to assess the progress towards the long term goals of the agreement. From then on such a stocktake will be carried out every 5 years. These stocktakes have to be used by countries to inform their next NDCs. UNEP has concluded that the current aggregated NDCs are not sufficient to reach the 2° target; emissions in 2030 should be 25% lower than the levels set by the declared NDCs.

The democratic negotiation of the Paris Agreement (in contrast to the rather top down approach of the Kyoto protocol), as well as the integration of cities, states and businesses in the COP 22 discussion are identified as characteristics that make the agreement and the process it sets into motion more robust than its predecessor and less prone to the potential withdrawal of single countries. While assets and intellectual property of the fossil fuel industry represent worth of quadrillions of US $, those of the low carbon industry have a value climbing into the trillions of US $. However, there could be a void in climate leadership caused by a change in US climate policies under the new administration. China, India and the EU will continue to lead international efforts but South American countries, the Climate Vulnerable Forum and Germany (inside the EU) are candidates to play a more prominent leadership role. Germany's G20 presidency in 2020 will be a first test for this. To make the transition to a global low carbon economy succeed it will be necessary to ensure that its benefits are fairly distributed throughout society. Many low carbon technologies as well as the transition itself offer opportunities for local benefits like job creation, local ownership, improved air quality which should be seized as well as properly communicated.

Context: International Climate Policy and the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is the successor to the Kyoto protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and went into force in 2005. The Kyoto protocol emerged from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was signed by almost all nations in 1992 at the ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio.  The Kyoto protocol covers the period from 2008 to 2020, the period addressed in the Paris agreement starts in 2021 and the agreement is supposed to run as long as parties agree to continue. Unlike the Kyoto protocol the Paris Agreement doesn’t set legally binding emission reduction targets for the parties. However the parties are bound to state non-binding targets and report about the progress towards them. The targets are called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and together they are supposed to reach the declared goal (Art. 2) to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C compared to preindustrial levels. The agreement envisages a process, often referred to as ‘ratchet mechanism’, demanding countries to take stock of the progress towards the long term goals and subsequently update or state new NDCs every 5 years. The Kyoto protocol established 3 market based mechanisms to enable international cooperation to reach climate targets:

·         the Clean Development Mechanism,

·         Joint Implementation and

·         Emissions Trading.

These mechanisms are developed further and to some extent redesigned in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement: The Clean Development Mechanism is replaced by what is now often referred to as Sustainable Development Mechanism or Emission Mitigation Mechanism, and Kyoto’s Assigned Allocation Units are transformed into supposedly improved Internationally Transferable Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs). Additionally, non-market approaches are welcomed under the Paris Agreements article 6.8.

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