How do you follow the over-hyped successes of the Paris climate talks? It was always going to be a hard task for COP 22. In that respect the conference in Marrakech was the UNFCCC’s difficult (twenty)second album. To make matters worse, and in a clear attempt to make the event sound like a 1990s Steven Seagal film, COP 22 was billed as “the COP of action”. So not only did it have to follow the most successful climate conference of recent years, people were also expecting the negotiators to actually make things happen. What the delegates needed was some sort of distraction; something to occupy the world media’s attention and let them get on with discussing the Warsaw International Mechanism in peace. If only there were an election.
The distraction that was preyed for was duly delivered courtesy of the U.S. electorate. When it arrived of course, few people at climate talks were celebrating. The sense of shock was palpable as news filtered through that Donal Trump had taken the Whitehouse. Strangely though, the reality that someone who had previously described climate change as a ‘hoax perpetrated on the U.S by the Chinese’, had the effect of galvanising countries, making negotiators more determined than ever to maintain the momentum achieved since Paris. It was China who led the charge, issuing a statement saying that it would continue to meet its ambitious climate goals even if the U.S. was not prepared to meet its own commitments.
The first week of negotiations was rather slow going, with little progress being made on many issues. As is so often the way at UN climate talks, much of the heavy lifting was left until the final five days of the negotiations. So did the talks deliver on key issues such as climate finance and loss and damage? Would Action COP save the day?
In the end no one could call COP 22 a failure, countries came to an agreement, and committed to put the Paris deal into action by 2018. However, a huge amount of work still needs to be done and countries still look a way off meeting the commitments they agreed to in Paris. When one considers that in all likelihood, these commitments are almost certainly insufficient to avoid dangerous climate change, the scale of the challenge begins to become clear. The general pathway for action on adaptation and mitigation was mapped out and many procedural issues were agreed which should pave the way for progress to be made ahead of COP 24 in Poland in two years time.
Once again climate finance was the most important areas of discussions from a climate change adaptation perspective. COP 22 was due to provide a clear vision on how climate finance was going to be mobilised for adaptation, encouraging finance from governments and catalysing investment from private finance streams.
Adaptation Fund: Established under the Kyoto Protocol (which was agreed at COP 3, 19 years ago) the Adaptation Fund is one of the mechanisms that allows climate funds to be transferred from rich countries to developing countries to help them adapt to climate impacts. The decision in Marrakesh ensures that the Adaptation Fund will continue to endure in the era of the Paris Agreement, with Parties asked to submit their ideas for how the fund will work under the Paris Agreement by the end of March next year.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF): The GCF represents the largest single mechanism for delivering climate finance to developing countries. Rich countries reaffirmed the goal of mobilising US$ 100 billion of finance per year by 2020; but if they had failed to do so it would have been a big shock. However, a lot of important details that need to be worked out were left unanswered; issues such as climate finance tracking were left unresolved.
There was also little concrete progress on the proportion of GCF finance being channeled to climate change adaptation. Currently only 25% of public finance in developing countries goes to adaptation activities, a long way short of the GCF’s stated goal of 50%. In her opening address UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa was clear that this was something that needed to change “More sustainable and predictable funding for adaptation going forward is urgently needed, including through the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund” she said, warning that “the scale [of finance] is not yet commensurate with the challenge, including in terms of building resilience”
Overall the view from many of the developing countries at the climate talks was one of deep frustration that more could not be achieved. “Adaptation needs continue to be neglected” warned Zambian president Edgar Lungu. Adaptation finance was one of the areas where the Paris climate talks failed to make significant progress, and COP22 has done little more than kick the can down the road.
One (small) bright spot came in the form of the first ever fast track National Adaptation Plan (NAP) grants made under the GCF. Liberia and Nepal both benefited from the grants (of US$ 2.9 m and US$ 2.3m respectively) to help them formulate their NAPs. Notably these grants were facilitated by the first private sector organisation to be accredited to distribute GCF funds: Deutsche Bank.
Capacity building to support developing nations achieve their goals under the Paris Agreement was another area that was discussed at length in Marrakesh. The NDC partnership was launched to support countries access technical and financial support, and negotiators were able to agree on the structure of the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB). The first PCCB meeting will be in May 2017.
Loss and damage
With almost no progress made whatsoever in the first week of negotiations on the sticky issue of loss and damage, few expected that a deal could be reached by the end of the conference. However delegates surprised everyone by agreeing on a series of technical processes that will help them deal with impacts not addressed by planned adaptation. The decision establishes a review of the Warsaw International Mechanism (or WIM - the overall governing framework for the loss and damage discussions) and also that a technical paper should be produced ‘elaborating the sources of financial support’ for loss and damage.
The decision in Marrakesh then was one of progress on technical procedures for governing future talks, but vulnerable developing countries will come away from the talks knowing that very little has been achieved on the substance of the discussions.
Overall COP 22 will be seen as a success for maintaining the strong commitments that were made in Paris. Much of the work in the lead up to the next milestone conference in two years time, will focus on stepping up efforts on climate change adaptation, particularly in finding ways to provide secure, long-term financial support to developing countries. While progress remains slow on some crucial areas, it was clear that almost all countries are now pulling in the same direction. In the main plenary hall at the end of the conference, country delegates took to the stage to endorse the Marrakesh outcomes. The United States delegates were well received as they reassured the conference that the “momentum cannot and will not be stopped.”
This blog was originally posted in Acclimatise website.