Environment

Without the Means, Marrakesh Climate Conference May Fail to Be an ‘Implementation’ Meet

The magnitude of action required and the commitment to provide climate finance are clear responsibilities of the developed world governments. But are they willing to accept that?

Flags from different countries are displayed at the World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 6, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

Flags from different countries are displayed at the World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 6, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

The Paris Climate Change Agreement entered into force on November 4, three days ahead of the annual UN climate jamboree, for which more than 195 countries are expected to gather in Marrakesh in Morocco from November 7-18. There will be much exultation at the meeting over the unexpectedly early coming into force of the Paris Agreement, but once the dust settles down on the excitement, it will be time to get down to work. Work, mandated to a host of different bodies, will involve getting into threadbare details and crafting rules in relation to the implementation of the provisions of the Paris Agreement.

The Marrakesh meet, called the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22), under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will see a number of procedural issues under discussion in relation to the implementation aspect of the Paris Agreement. Among the top priorities of the developing countries will be to ensure that countries that have not ratified the Paris Agreement do not lose out on their “say” in the rule-making process; the countries that have not ratified the Paris deal would like to be as much a part of the decision-making process as the countries that have ratified the it. (As on November 7, 100 of 197 countries had ratified the deal.) Countries are also expected to set a deadline by which all the rules to implement the Paris Agreement are in place. This could be set to a year or two from now.

Scope, rules expected to be contentious

On substantive issues relating to the implementation of the Paris deal, COP22 may not get too far in terms of arriving at any real conclusions since countries are just about starting to work on the rules related to implementation. However, contentious issues exist regarding the scope of the agreement, with developed countries largely wanting to focus on and advance mitigation-related issues. Developing countries insist, as is provided in article 3 of the deal, that the agreement is comprehensive in that it covers mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation (finance, technology development and transfer and capacity-building), and mitigation, therefore, cannot be prioritised.

Another contentious aspect is the rules related to reporting arrangements of countries under the agreement. The rules will be dealt with under the ‘Transparency of Action and Support’ section, where countries will have to provide detailed information on their climate action and support. Again, some developed countries – the US in particular – want to impose onerous rules on developing countries.

There may also be fights on how developed and developing countries interpret certain provisions of the Paris Agreement. But it is important to recognise that underlying all these fights is the right of the developing countries to develop and to not allow their policy space to be trampled on by developed countries. The Paris Agreement has made it abundantly clear that its purpose is to enhance the implementation of the mother convention, where differentiation between developed and developing countries is the bedrock principle.

(L-R) UNFCCC spokesperson Nick Nuttall, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan foreign minister and COP22 president Salaheddine Mezouar attend the World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 6, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

(L-R) UNFCCC spokesperson Nick Nuttall, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan foreign minister and COP22 president Salaheddine Mezouar attend the World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 6, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

Finance, pre-2020 climate action the real issues

Besides these implementation issues, finance and pre-2020 climate action are expected to occupy centre stage at COP22. These are areas where developed countries have repeatedly reneged on their existing commitments. The reality remains that pre-2020 climate action cannot be wished away. Developing countries are expected to raise the lack of ambition of the developed countries in the pre-2020 period, both in terms of emissions-reduction targets as well as not fulfilling the means of the implementation commitment. It is ironic that several developed countries have not ratified the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which comprises the pre-2020 period. Groups such as the EU have often cited procedural difficulties when it comes to ratifying the second commitment period, but it seems all the difficulties vanished into thin air when it came to the ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Then, the roadmap for the fulfilment of the $100-billion commitment of developed countries will be a key issue for developing countries at COP22. Developed countries have a commitment to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020. While they will try and establish that they are well on track to fulfill their $100 billion commitment, the reality is that an official report by the Standing Committee on Finance, an arm of the UNFCCC, has brought out that in 2014, the amount of climate finance flows from developed to developing countries amounted to a meagre $26.6 billion. The report also brought out that there are a lot of sources of climate finance flows, but they cannot be compared because of the lack of clarity on the definition of climate finance. In the past, developed countries have not engaged constructively on arriving at a definition of climate finance. Developing countries take recourse in the convention to establish that anything “new” and “additional”, which is over and above the official development assistance is considered climate finance. Progress on means of implementation, therefore, will be a key determinant for the success of COP22.

Outsourcing implementation

Morocco, the hosts of COP22, has already set in motion an idea that the meeting will be an “implementation COP”. In fact, France, which oversaw the COP21 proceedings, and Morocco have initiated a Global Climate Action Agenda, which sets out measures to boost cooperative action among various stakeholders such as governments, cities, business, investors and citizens for emissions reduction and helping vulnerable countries adapt to impacts of climate change. This may be a diversionary tactic at best since the context of the climate change negotiations remains the UNFCCC, which is clear that since developed countries have caused the problem of climate change they will have to pay for it. Involving cities, businesses, investors and citizens in the formal process, even in good faith, will not help since the magnitude of climate action required and the commitment to provide climate finance are clear responsibilities of the developed world governments.

It is amply clear, therefore, that without means of implementation from the developed countries, Morocco’s desire for COP22 to be an “implementation COP” will remain a distant dream.

Indrajit Bose works with Third World Network and can be reached at boseindrajit@gmail.com