COP22: Water and climate justice share the spotlight with Trump

Wednesday was water day at COP22 in Marrakesh, and while the mood in Morocco was one of "sink or swim" in regards to an unprecedented US election, business took to the stage to call on governments to introduce a "speedy implementation" of the Paris Agreement.

The opening two days of the COP22 climate conference had hammered home the need for “ambition” to rise to vanguard of business and government action in order to steer nations towards a well below two degrees pathway.

While delegates in Marrakesh were highlighting the need to look forward in the climate battle, many were glancing towards the west, where Donald Trump pulled off one of the biggest electoral shocks in US history, and simultaneously threw global climate action into doubt.

In Marrakesh, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon congratulated Trump on his election win, and said that the US was an “essential actor across the international agenda”.

“I congratulate Mr. Donald Trump on his election as forty-fifth President of the United States of America,” Ki-moon said. “In the aftermath of a hard-fought and often divisive campaign, it is worth recalling and reaffirming that the unity in diversity of the US is one of the country’s greatest strengths. I encourage all Americans to stay true to that spirit.

“Today’s global challenges demand concerted global action and joint solutions. People everywhere look to the US to use its remarkable power to help lift humanity up and to work for the common good. 

“The United Nations will count on the new Administration to strengthen the bonds of international cooperation as we strive together to uphold shared ideals, combat climate change, advance human rights, promote mutual understanding and implement the Sustainable Development Goals to achieve lives of peace, prosperity and dignity for all.”

Blue Book on Water

The ramifications of Trump’s election will likely unfold as the months roll on. But with COP22 focusing on water and business, it is apparent that even those who want to drown their sorrows may not have the access to do so.

The Action Day for Water at COP22 called for more attention to be given to looming threats of water scarcity and security. Businesses have already highlighted the case for water management, but with 93% of countries identifying water as key to climate adaption in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) the need for a framework on water security is high.

Subsequently, COP22 launched the Blue Book on Water and Climate, which was produced by the Moroccan Government as an outcome to a Water and Climate conference held in July 2016. The World Water Council has overseen the launch, which collected recommendations to support water security and introduce applicable solutions to improve water resilience.

“This aligns perfectly with COP22, which is striving to be a COP of action!” Morocco’s minister delegate in charge of water Charafat Afailal said. “Now, we need to realise what is at stake, since water insecurity leads to increased conflicts, tension between populations, and also provokes migration that threatens overall stability.”

Businesses commit to climate justice

Alongside discussions over the implementation of a global water plan, COP22 also dedicated time to prioritising climate justice. Coupling up with the water agenda, the topic of climate justice led to the introduction of the “Water for Africa” initiative.

Launched in Marrakesh, Water for Africa will be supported by the African Development Bank. The initiative aims to “render justice” throughout Africa by adopting action plans to mobilise international political, financial and institutional partners to improve funding and water sanitation services across the continent.

Alongside this, three alliances formed at COP21 covering basins, megacities and businesses – representing more than 450 organisations – all signed a strong commitment on Wednesday to identify best practices and support the development of new projects by those engaged with the adaption and resilience of the water sector.

But here is where the first impacts of Trump’s presidential reign could be felt. The US has pledged $3bn to the international Green Climate Fund, which has set a goal of helping the vulnerable adapt to climate change.

So far the US has paid just a sixth of that amount, and Trump could potentially refuse to deliver the rest of the funds. This would essentially create a $2.5bn deficit in the funds pledged to help developing countries tackle various climate impacts, including water stress.

Business demands

As part of the Global Climate Action Agenda in COP22, an array of “climate champions” – spearheaded by CDP and We Mean Business – have discussed the potential of carbon pricing and cross-sector collaboration which has already led to the growth of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC).

Led by COP21 President Ségolène Royal, the CPLC has been signed by 26 governments, and 12% of emissions are currently covered by pricing mechanisms. At the time of publication carbon pricing discussions were still ongoing, but business leaders at the event have set out seven areas that governments should focus on to help drive the business case for climate action.

In order to realise the private sector’s potential in deliver emissions reductions at scale governments should focus on the following:

  1. Scale up enabling policies through the Global Climate Action Agenda and the Technical Examination Process on mitigation to drive pre- 2020 mitigation ambition
  2. Drive towards net zero emissions by communicating long-term low GHG development strategies
  3. Fully implement NDCs through domestic legislation and regulation to incentivize an immediate response from the private sector to the ambition of the Paris Agreement
  4. Connect non-state action to an increase in ambition with every 5-year NDC cycle, starting in 2018
  5. Mobilise climate finance at scale from public and private sources.
  6. Enact meaningful pricing of carbon
  7. Build climate-resilient economies and communities

Commenting on the role of business in delivering the Paris Agreement, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group’s – which brings together 24 leading European businesses – director Jill Duggan said: “With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the world now has a legal mandate to bring about a zero-carbon future.

This is a fantastic business opportunity. What is now required from corporate leaders is a real step change in the way they deal with climate change. They must move from an incremental, compliance approach to a transformational   approach, the only one that can deliver a sustainable, prosperous world.”

With COP22 running until 18 November there is sure to be more announcements on the horizon…

Matt Mace

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