UN Climate Talks Seek to Build on Paris Summit Progress

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By Eric J. Lyman

Nov. 7 — The Marrakech Climate Change Conference got started Nov. 7 with repeated calls to build on the momentum from last year’s Paris summit and the recent entry into force of the resulting Paris Agreement, the world’s first global climate pact.

Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations’ top climate change official, implored delegates from nearly 200 countries to “work together with speed” and “scale up efforts on all fronts.” Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who is doubling as the president of the 22nd Conference of the Parties talks, vowed to make the so-called COP-22 talks a “COP of action, not words.”

On Nov. 7, the number of countries that had officially notified the UN that they had ratified or otherwise approved the Paris Agreement reached 100, a symbolic milestone. Those countries now represent nearly 70 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. The key threshold of at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of emissions was reached Oct. 5, resulting in the agreement entering into force 30 days later, on Nov. 4.

With the agreement’s entry into force, work now turns toward finalizing the Paris Agreement “rulebook,” the set of agreements that will determine how the pact will be implemented.

Key Areas

Espinosa said she would like to see five key areas addressed in the first week of the two-week talks:

  • 1. Finance to help poor countries adapt to climate change and make their economies more resilient. Delegates will work to identify funding sources to raise at least $100 billion per year by 2020.
  • 2. A push to have national plans for climate action integrated into domestic policies.
  • 3. Increased emphasis on efforts to help countries adapt to climate change and to make progress on the “loss and damage” mechanism that would compensate poor countries for damage related to climate change.
  • 4. Efforts to help poor countries develop in environmentally friendly ways, while making them more able to withstand climate impacts.
  • 5. Increasing the involvement of “non-party stakeholders,” a reference to environmental groups, academic organizations, the private sector, and other observers.
“Our work here in Marrakech must reflect our new reality,” Espinosa said. “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.”

U.S. Elections

Much of the informal conversations in Marrakech centered on the U.S. elections, where Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he would “cancel” the Paris Agreement if elected Nov. 8.

Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has said she would honor the Paris Agreement commitments made by the U.S.

But the conference’s leadership brushed aside those concerns and said the process would move forward regardless of the outcome of the U.S. election.

“We should not over-emphasize the importance of Donald Trump,” said Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate change ambassador. “I would be shocked if Donald Trump [won]. But if that happens, we would still see everyone wake up Wednesday morning and say, ‘We stick with the Paris Agreement.’”

The high-level segment of the Marrakech talks begin 11, the opening of the first Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.

That is the negotiating track for the Paris Agreement, but its rules only allow countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification or approval with the UN to participate. That would leave nearly half of the 197 signatories to the Paris Agreement on the sidelines for this portion of the Marrakech meetings.

2018

Because of that, the negotiating track for the Paris Agreement is likely to be opened, but then quickly suspended.

But the political question is how long it will be suspended: Many developing countries want it re-opened at COP-23 in 2017, when many more countries would have formally ratified.

Some industrialized countries are pushing for it to be re-opened in 2018, which is coming into focus as a key year in climate negotiations process.

Re-opening the talks next year might still leave some countries out, but it would also allow for more negotiating time before 2018, which is shaping up to be the next key year in climate negotiations.

That year will see the release of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change special report to look into pathways to keeping worldwide global warming to within 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively).

The “facilitative dialogue” aimed at pressuring countries to take on more ambitious targets to confront climate change will take place that year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Rome at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor on this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

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