COP22: The first 48 hours

The COP22 climate conference kicked off in the Moroccan capital of Marrakesh on Monday (7 November), with several opening discussions and programme launches emphasising the crucial role of business in delivering a low-carbon economy.

The 12-day talks started with a bang, with the welcome news that more than 100 countries have now ratified the Paris Agreement.

During the COP22 opening ceremony, Morocco’s Foreign Minister and newly-elected COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar recognised the upsurge of global momentum in recent months, but acknowledged the fact that the Paris Agreement does not put the world on track towards the goal of a maximum global average temperature of 2C.

Mezouar said: “I would like to invite you over the coming 11 days to be more ambitious than ever in your commitments. All over the world, public opinion must perceive change. It has to be a change at all levels, from local projects through to those that cross international borders and it must create genuine win-win partnerships.”

With the focus of day one on ‘Africa in Action’, Mezouar highlighted the continent’s commitment to contribute to global efforts to tackle climate change. He emphasised the importance of helping all African countries fight climate change because the “sun does not ignore a village because its small”.

Along with Ségolène Royal, French Environment Minister and President of last year’s successful COP21 conference in Paris, Mezouar handed out solar lanterns to all delegates in the room, as a symbol of the transformation to clean technology which is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

In her opening address, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said that, while early entry into force of the Paris Agreement is a cause for celebration, it is also a timely reminder of the high expectations that are now placed upon governments.

“Achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement is not a given,” Espinosa said. “We have embarked on an effort to change the course of two centuries of carbon intensive development. The peaking of global emissions is urgent, as is attaining far more climate-resilient societies.”

Espinosa underlined several key areas in which work needs to be taken forward. She stated that finance must continue to allow developing continue to green their economies and build resilience, and that fully engaging non-party stakeholders including businesses are central to the global climate action agenda.

“Our work here in Marrakech must reflect our new reality. No politician or citizen, no business manager or investor can doubt that the transformation to a low-emission, resilient society and economy is the singular determination of the community of nations,” she said.

Despite a clear sense of optimism surrounding the start of COP22, the looming the possibility of climate change denier Donald Trump entering the White House has cast a cloud over the conference. With the fate of the US nation set to be decided tonight, the environmental sphere will have its fingers crossed for the election of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who has vowed to extend the US’ domestic energy policies and international climate commitments.

Regardless of tonight’s outcome, green campaigners will be glad that safeguards are in place to protect US environmental efforts. With the Agreement already ratified, the US is now officially locked into the plan for the next four years – the exact span of the next US president’s term.

Some more positive news was provided today by Marrakech delegates just hours before the election. Day two marked the launch a new programme to accelerate climate action from businesses, cities, and NGOs.

The Global Climate Action Agenda, which has already secured high-level business support from the likes of Danone, Unilever, Michelin, aims to build a new process in parallel to the main discussions, allowing non-state actors to work closer with state negotiators.

The initiative was launched by the UN’s high-level climate champions Laurence Tubiana, the French climate ambassador for COP21 and minister-delegate Hakima El Haite, the Moroccan Environment Minister.

El Haite said: “We are building a new process, and it’s very important to understand that this is the first time we are doing that, and it’s the first time we are building a real partnership between the non-state actors and the actors.”

Also in Marrakech officials launched a portfolio of projects designed to boost the development of carbon market instruments as a means to help countries achieve their national climate action plans, to a large extent making use of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Established under the Kyoto Protocol, the CDM has been successful in generating climate action on the ground, with almost 8000 projects and close to 300 large-scale programme of activities established in 125 countries.

COP22 continues…

George Ogleby

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