The November 7-18 UN climate summit concluded in the early hours of November 19 with a tight timetable on how to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement but without a deal on how much money rich nations will pay for the purpose and by when. Governments set a deadline of 2018 to complete the rule book to operationalize the Paris Agreement.
The Marrakech summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) saw a slew of initiatives to move towards a greener economy and to boost water and food security in a world made more vulnerable to droughts, floods, storms, sea level rise and other impacts of climate change.
Most of the initiatives were through bilateral or country-group projects between developed and developing nations, state and city governments, the World Bank and its associates, or private firms – all outside the control of the UNFCCC, a move that is worrying many poor nations.
Progress on other fronts
There was progress on other fronts. Canada, Germany, Mexico and the United States announced their climate strategies to 2050. In the case of the US, this plan came despite the threat of president-elect Donald Trump to pull his country out of the Paris Agreement.
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UNFCCC, said after the conclusion, “The Paris Agreement set the course for global climate action. Here in Marrakech, governments underlined that this is now urgent, irreversible and unstoppable.” The Marrakech Action Proclamation underlined this.
Despite the progress on other fronts, the issue of finance could not be resolved, though it delayed the end of the summit by hours and kept delegates of over 190 countries arguing in the cold corridors of the venue well past midnight.
Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco’s foreign minister and president of the conference, said after the conclusion, “It will be necessary to respect the commitment of USD 100 billion from now until 2020. Faced with the magnitude of what is required for dealing with the impacts of climate change, turning billions into trillions is indispensable. 2017 must be the year of large scale projects, of mobilising finance, and accessing financial facilities that will be necessary for adaptation.”
The threat of an US government under Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement united climate negotiators from developed and developing countries as never before, on most issues except the vexed question of finance. Talks broke down on whether the Adaptation Fund – set up under the Kyoto Protocol to help poor nations cope with climate change impacts – would continue after the protocol expires in 2020. Four developed countries pledged USD 81 million to keep the fund running for now, but its future beyond 2020 remains uncertain.
Anil Madhav Dave, India’s Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said he wanted the part about finance to be “transparent, clear and straight. By straight, I mean, don’t start adding things later.” Dave said there should have been more climate action pledged between now and 2020, but overall he found the summit had been “on track, despite attempts to derail it.”
Asked repeatedly about the possible reaction by India if Donald Trump pulled his country out of the Paris Agreement, Dave would only say, “We have to go ahead with implementation of the agreement. We already have over 95% of the laws necessary to do so.”
Deadlock over finance
Climate activists also expressed disappointment about the deadlock over finance. Sanjay Vashist, Director of Climate Action Network South Asia, welcomed “progress made on technical fronts” but expressed disappointment about the “lack of urgency shown by developed countries on delivering their promise of providing necessary funding to developing countries to cope with the incessant impacts of climate change.”
“At the end of these two weeks we just want to express our extreme disappointment that no clear and concrete increases in climate finance pledges have been put forward by developed country governments," said Lidy Nacpil of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development. “Private sector involvement is not a substitute for public finance… In Marrakech, all the developed countries did was try to evade and postpone their responsibilities, insisting on highly questionable methods for calculating their financial contributions to mask the paltry reality."
Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth said, "The science is clear, we only have three years before the Paris Agreement's goal of 1.5 (degrees Celsius ceiling) is beyond our reach. The pledges on the table for those three years will not deliver this goal." See: It’s a hotter world without the money
Legally binding action
The issue of legally binding climate action by rich nations between now and 2020 also remained largely unresolved despite two long rounds of a “facilitative dialogue” called for the purpose. Most developed countries have not ratified the 2012 amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, so pledges under the protocol no longer have any legal force. India called upon all developed countries to ratify the amendment by next April, but there was no response.
However, one achievement of the Marrakech summit was to retain progress on other fronts despite the deadlock over finance and some other key issues. The Climate Technology Centre and Network, which supports developing countries with climate technology development and transfer, received pledges of over US$23 million (158 million yuan).
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) announced the approval of the first two proposals for the formulation of national adaptation plans. Nepal will receive US$2.9 million (20 million yuan) for the purpose, and Liberia US$2.2 million (15 million yuan).
The UNFCCC mechanism on how to estimate the loss and damage already occurring due to climate change survived despite attacks during the Marrakech summit. It now has a new five-year work plan.
This summit saw the launch of a Global Framework on Water Scarcity to support countries to integrate climate change and sustainable water use in agriculture. But the deadlock over how to deal with agriculture in climate negotiations remained unresolved. Rich nations are still interested only in talking about methane emissions from dairy and rice paddies, while poor nations speak about the need for money to help farmers already reeling from climate change impacts.
Expressing his unhappiness about the lack of resolution on this issue, Mezouar hoped it would be resolved by the next summit, scheduled at the end of 2017.
Vulnerable countries take lead
Meanwhile, on the last day of the Marrakech summit, 47 countries who have formed the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) pledged to update their national contributions to combating climate change as early as possible, before 2020; prepare mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas (GHG) development strategies as early as possible before 2020; and strive to meet 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible.
Speaking on the occasion, Al Gore, former US vice president, said, “These ambitious and inspiring commitments show the path forward for others and give us all renewed optimism that we are going to meet the challenge before us and meet it in time.” Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said, “Our goal must be to bend the curve of emissions by 2020 in order to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and enable an orderly and just transition. For this we must accelerate the shift of capital and promote radical collaboration among all stakeholders.”
Dipal Barua of the NGO called 100% RE said, “Bangladesh has shown how renewable energy tackles energy poverty. With today´s commitment to move to 100% renewable energy domestically, the government, in coalition with the most vulnerable countries, builds on this success and allows future generations a decent life on this planet.”
Rachel Kyte, CEO and special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, said, "These vulnerable countries, at all stages of development, send a clear signal that they are moving forward and getting on with the challenge of building clean, resilient, inclusive economies."
Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said, “This commitment by 47 countries on the frontline of climate change shows leadership and vision, just what we need from everyone.”