The COP22 Climate Talks: What’s New?

On the 18th November 2016, the UK government agreed to approve the Paris Agreement ratifications decided upon during the UN’s COP 22 climate change conference which, this year, was held in Marrakech. 

After the landmark Paris Agreement was agreed upon in 2015, this ratification process shows that support for the ambitious CO2 reduction plans is still present, despite the US’ new President-elect, Donald Trump, threatening to pull out of the treaty.

Luckily Trump seems to be in the minority, with the UK being the 111th nation to ratify the agreement. A continued commitment to carbon reduction sends a strong message to the world that the UK are still on board with international co-operation. Despite voting to leave the EU earlier this year, there is still hope of the UK securing a seat at future climate change negotiation talks.

This year, the 22nd session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Marrakech from 7th to 18th November. Carrying on from COP21, this conference sought to clarify exactly how the pledges made in the agreement will be met, turning paper promises into reality.

So, what’s new?

Clarification of the Rules

In the lead up to Paris last year, every country was asked to submit a plan of action for how they were going to combat climate change; a National Determined Contribution (NDC). Despite the Paris Agreement setting a target of a sub-2 degree rise in global temperatures, once all the NDC’s were analysed it was found that even if every country implemented their proposed plans in full, global temperatures would still rise by 2.8 degrees by the end of the century – not good enough.

As part of the Paris Agreement, all countries have pledged to revise their plans every five years to improve. The first round of this will be in 2020 and countries will be asked to submit new plans before a global stocktake is performed in 2023, which will then track progress.

COP22’s aim this year was to clarify all the rules surrounding the NDCs to ensure targets will be met. The NDC partnership has now been set up which brings together a coalition of developing countries, and developed and international institutions to make sure technical and financial support is available to help achieve climate goals and ensure sustainable development.

The progress made on the drafting of regulations relating to the Paris Agreement was a key success of COP22.

Further clarification was seen when a deadline of 2018 was implemented for all operational regulations, relating to the Paris Agreement, to be confirmed. This will ensure long-term success as a more rigid programme of improvement will be established. 

US ‘Trump-ed’ by the most vulnerable

The COP22 conference was arguably overshadowed by Donald Trump’s shock success in the US General Election, casting doubt over the US’ continued commitment to carbon reduction targets. Trump is a self-declared climate denier, the first ever to lead one of the world’s biggest emitters, and therefore future co-operation has now been thrown into doubt.

This has not stopped other countries from committing though and, for some, it has strengthened their resolve. Both France’s Francois Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have warned about the risks of quitting the Paris Agreement. China’s Vice Foreign Minister, Liu Zhenmin, has also taken time to remind Trump, via Bloomburg, that it was his Republican predecessors in the 1980s who started the climate negotiations. It remains to be seen what role the US will play in the next four years.

On a more positive note, a group of 47 countries most vulnerable to climate change have pledged to source 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. Members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) have set out their Marrakech Vision, documenting how they will meet their target. This includes, updating their NDCs as early as possible before 2020.

If countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti and Bangladesh are stepping up, pressure will be put on larger emitters, including the US, to do their bit and become more ambitious in their targets to keep up.

Support exceeds expectations

The pressure for action is already mounting. Despite Trump’s lacklustre support, over 300 American businesses and investors stepped up to the plate claiming that that they would work hard to help meet Paris Agreement targets, and help to urge American leaders to adopt policies that will help them reach this goal.

Furthermore, developed counties and international initiatives have exceeded targets set in 2015 in terms of making funds available to help less fortunate countries reach their carbon reduction targets.

- More than $81 million has been pledged to the Adaption Fund

- Over $23 million was pledged to the Centre and Climate Technology Network (CTCN) which supports developing countries with new technology

- The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is expected to approve $2.5 billion worth of spend to various projects

- A club of subnational governments who have called themselves “Under2 Coalition” have pledged to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2020

- The Global Environment Facility (GEF) announced that 11 developed country donors have made $50 million of funding available for capacity building initiatives 

This bodes well for the future of the Paris Agreement, sending out a strong signal of commitment.

However, to date, the US have only paid $500m out of the $3bn promised and with Trump promising that federal dollars will no longer be spent on global warming initiatives, it is up to others to make up the shortfall.

It remains to be seen what the next year will bring, and with the overriding feeling seeming to be that little concrete progress has been made in Morocco this year, it will be interesting to see what happens when the conference convenes in Fiji in 2017. 


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