Expectations that COP22 this year was going to set the wheels into motion on the Paris Agreement (PA) have been met with mixed feelings and certainly with a snail-type process that brought considerable disagreements between developed and developing countries to light. After a long night on Friday 18th November, the 197 countries renewed their commitments agreed in Paris, promising to raise ambition and address the mitigation gap between their national emissions reduction plans and what climate science is saying. The 2016 Emissions gap UNEP report is indeed clear: greater pre-2020 action is the “last chance” for staying below the 1.5C degree temperature rise. Negotiators agreed therefore to suspend the first meeting of the Parties to the Agreement until 2018, in order to give time for the remaining countries to ratify the treaty and allow negotiators to finalize the rules on how the PA will work in practice. It’s clear that the journey ahead is still very long and curvy.
As already seen in past COPs, the sticky issue that kept delaying the closure of COP22 in Marrakech was related to climate finance, in particular, regarding the adaptation needs. Happening on African soil, a continent suffering from multiple crises and which experienced this year the longest drought in recent history causing severe damages to agriculture, COP22 was expecting to see developed countries strengthening their commitment to deliver adequate funding for adaptation to developing countries. Besides some additional pledging to the so-called Adaptation Fund from Germany, Sweden, Italy and the Flanders region of Belgium, industrialized countries are still far from doing their fair share.
Nevertheless, the governments welcomed the initiative of King Mohammed VI, the “Marrakech Proclamation” aiming at signaling a shift toward a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development. How this declaration will make a difference still remains to be seen, especially in the midst of the uncertainty of a US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. There are many promising and ambitious words that are still failing to go hand in hand with commitments and actions. Words that should be followed by examples such as the Climate Vulnerability Forum, a group of 47 countries chaired by Ethiopia, which declared on the last day of the COP22 to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
When last year in Paris on December 12th people in the streets were drawing their redlines and shouting their last words, Marrakech proved once again that the civil society is strong and will continue to move ahead for a clean, just and equal society. The people-powered movements around the world who are resisting against fossil fuels, extractive industries, and land-grabs are building a resilient future with real solutions. They are showing paths to victory, paths to regained control away from the dirty energies that are destroying our planet.
Climate change is the most complex and difficult challenge that humanity has ever faced and it can’t be denied that we are heading towards the abyss. There are many questions with no easy answers, but there are many struggles that climate change bring all together and that it’s probably within this context that people can share, create and unite to push politicians forward out of their profitable interests. Next year, the Fiji islands will preside over COP23: it will be the first time that a Pacific island state, severely impacted by sea level rise, will lead the UNFCCC negotiations. The 1.5C question is a matter of life for Fiji and the small islands states, threatened to disappear. Will developed countries put in place policies, policies, rules and funds in order for the urgent and just transformation to happen?