A year after the monumental Paris COP 21, the UN Climate Talks in Marrakech concluded successfully, despite looming uncertainties related to Donald Trump’s Presidential election win and produced plans for implementation of the newly enforce Paris Agreement. The meetings also produced the high-level Marrakech Action Proclamation, where parties collectively stated that “extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide…is irreversible”. There is continued momentum and recognition across public and private sectors about the urgent need to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Key steps towards global implementation of the Paris Agreement have occurred and will continue.

From November 7-18, 2016, delegates from almost 200 countries gathered in Marrakech for the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22), as well as the first session of the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1). Negotiators came prepared to focus on the technical details of a path forward. Over 22,500 participants in total, including government officials, industry representatives and civil society organizations joined in the negotiations and the surrounding events.[1]

Marrakech was an important turning point in the history of international climate change negotiations. COP 22 was to be the “implementation” COP, transitioning from the many years of negotiations that resulted in the Paris Agreement last year to a new phase of negotiations. This new phase is focused on translating the higher level commitments in the Paris Agreement into a detailed blueprint for action. COP 22 was perceived to have two main goals: to write the “Paris Rulebook”[2] and to preserve the momentum of the global climate movement. It appears to have succeeded in both of those goals. Although rules may not have been decided and few of the loose ends left by the Paris Agreement were completely tied up in Marrakech, Parties’ agreement to finalize the Paris Rulebook by 2018 – a year earlier than many envisioned in Paris – and many announcements of funding and action by state and non-state actors showed some needed progress.

Make no mistake, these negotiations were often painful, with many commentators and long-time negotiators noting long-held problems around transparency and a continued divide between developed and developing nations. That said, these negotiations make progress and we agree with the UNFCCC team’s sentiment that the conference “successfully demonstrated to the world that the implementation of the Paris Agreement is underway and that the constructive spirit of multilateral cooperation on climate change continues”.

Trump Election No Match for the “Irreversible” and “Unstoppable”

While the election of Donald Trump as the next US president cast a shadow of uncertainty over the negotiations (since Mr. Trump campaigned on pulling out of the Paris Accord and publicly doubted the validity of climate change science), delegates pushed ahead with determination. Countries rallied behind the messages of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa that the global climate movement was bigger than any one country and forward action was “irreversible” and “unstoppable”. No country stepped back from its commitment to climate action. In fact, Australia, Botswana, Japan, Pakistan and Italy, among others, joined the Paris Agreement after the election of Trump. Overall, there was little evidence that the US election significantly altered any of the negotiation outcomes (and, as our previous blog entry details, it will not halt climate action either).

Key Negotiation Outcomes

Key negotiation discussion points and outcomes include:

  • Action Proclamation: The UNFCCC and the Parties to the Convention announced their reaffirmed resolve for international climate action with the release of the Marrakech Action Proclamation. The Proclamation is a celebration of the momentum of political commitment on climate change and the mobilization of non-state actors. Canada was one of the few countries to release its long-term strategy as part of the UNFCCC’s 2050 Pathways Platform contributing to the US$23 million committed to the Climate Technology Centre and Network to support technology transfer in developing countries and announcing that it would invest nearly $1.8 billion to significantly leverage private-sector investment focused on clean and renewable energy solutions.
  • Global Stocktakes: Preparations were made for the 2018 facilitative dialogue, which will to take stock of collective progress towards the Paris Agreement’s long-term emissions goal and inform the next round of NDCs.
  • Mitigation and Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs): The Paris Agreement calls for further guidance on the features of NDCs. This guidance will need to account for the different types of NDCs Parties have submitted (e.g. absolute emissions targets, intensity-based targets, peak emissions, renewable energy investment or capacity targets, etc). Parties agreed to submit views on what features should be included as part of future NDCs within the first five months of 2017. Common time frames for NDCs will also be dealt with in 2017.
  • Adaptation Efforts: Parties began discussions regarding possible elements of the periodic “adaptation communications” they are encouraged to submit under the Paris Agreement, which would outline adaptation needs and/or efforts, as well as potential links to the global stocktake. Within the first five months of 2017, countries are required to submit their views on the adaptation communications.
  • Finance: Countries were urged to continue scaling up their financial contributions towards the 2020 goal of $100 billion. While much discussion centred around public finance, it’s important to note that the onus on private investors to fill the finance gap will likely be greater if the Trump administration decides to walk away from pledges and support funds the US has previously provided.
  • Adaptation Fund: Parties decided that the Adaptation Fund, a body that was originally set up to serve the Kyoto Protocol, should serve the Paris Agreement.
  • Loss and Damage: Countries approved a five-year workplan for the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on “loss and damage” associated with impacts of climate change. The workplan will start in 2017, under which countries will start to formally address topics such as longer-term impacts of climate change, non-economic losses (e.g. culture and identity) and migration.
  • Gender: The Parties agreed to extend and enhance the Lima work program on gender for another three years.

Other Conference Highlights

COP 22 was also a major gathering spot for significant discussion and announcements outside the formal multilateral negotiations. Here are some of the inspiring and often ambitious parallel actions countries took outside of the formal negotiations:

  • Cities, States and Regions: Near the close of COP 22, mayors from 10 US cities announced that they were joining the City Energy Project, a united effort to address their largest source of energy use and climate pollution: buildings. The newly formed Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy,the “world’s biggest urban climate and energy initiative”, is also bringing together thousands of local and regional authorities voluntarily committed to mitigation, adaptation, and secure, sustainable and affordable energy.
  • Business: In a letter addressed to President-elect Trump, 365 companies and major investors including Kellogg, Nike, DuPont, Intel, Levi Strauss and Starbucks urged the President-elect not to abandon the Paris climate deal, saying that a failure to shift to a clean economy would endanger American prosperity. In addition, the Science-Based Targets initiative announced that 200 companies, representing US$4.8 trillion in market value, have committed to set science-based emissions reduction targets. Under this initiative, big names such as Walmart, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Mars Inc., Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, and Sony, agree to have their commitments verified by the independent party.
  • Investors: The Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change released the highlights of actions taken by investors in 2016, including engaging with companies on carbon-reducing strategies, the deployment of capital to low-carbon assets, the decarbonization of investment portfolios, and engaging with policy makers on climate policies. An international coalition of asset owners with investments of over $100 billion is also developing a public tool Transition Pathway Initiative that will make it possible for institutional investors to track whether company business strategies are aligned with pathways associated with governments’ nationally determined contributions to emissions reductions or the broader global goal to limit global temperature rise to below 2°C.
  • Technology: At COP 22, Finland and the Netherlands joined Mission Innovation in a global initiative to accelerate public and private clean energy innovation to address climate change, make clean energy affordable to consumers, and create green jobs and commercial opportunities. Mission Innovation countries also launched seven new Innovation Challenges, including challenges regarding smart grids, storable solar fuels and clean energy materials.
  • Adaptation Finance: There were several announcements of non-state initiatives to mobilize financial mechanisms to fund adaptation and resilience projects. One such product is the $500 million Marrakech Investment Committee for Adaptation (MICA) Fund, the first ever private adaptation and investment vehicle of its kind. Similarly, Munich relaunched its Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), which pioneers innovative risk management, insurance and related risk transfer solutions in combination with other approaches to manage climate-related risks.

In Marrakech, Parties reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and agreed to finalise the detailed rules for its implementation within two years. This next stage of climate action will rely more on private sector and technology-driven change, focus on regional and local-level government initiatives and move from agreement to implementation. Public, private and civil society actions showcased at COP 22 indicate that all sectors are up to the task and committed to being part of the irreversible, unstoppable climate movement.

[1] https://www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb12689e.pdf

[2] This refers to the technical work of delineating the rules, procedures and guidelines that will make the Paris Agreement implementable.