The 'Marrakech Call', Not Trump, Hobbles Climate Change Talks in Morocco

Many developing countries have raised concerns over the contents of the document, and the manner in which it was prepared and is being pushed without their agreement.

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

At the end of five days of climate change negotiations in Morocco, rather than the news of Donald Trump being elected as the next US president, a four-page document hobbled the crucial talks over implementing the Paris Agreement.

The document, a draft of “Marrakech Call For Climate Action And Sustainable Development”, dated November 9, was selectively shared by the Moroccan presidency of the negotiations on Friday. Heads of states and ministers from 196 countries are expected to reach the Moroccan capital over the weekend for the high level segment of the two week negotiations. Business Standard reviewed the document, which has not yet been made public and was shared confidentially with country groupings.

The Morocco round of negotiations this year were expected to set some key ground rules to write the rule book for the Paris Agreement over next year or two. But, the presidency of the negotiations has also sprung out the high-profile political statement called the ‘Marrakech Call’ for the incoming heads of states and ministers to adopt, bypassing the formal negotiations.

By Friday evening, the document left many developing countries angry at both the content and the manner in which it was being pushed through at the talks. Even as they remained mindful that host Morocco is also a developing country, they expressed their anger behind closed doors in meetings of country groups. At least one key developing country voiced concerns that if the hosts tried to force countries to adopt the ‘Marrakech Call’ in its current shape it could lead to a Copenhagen-like situation – where the climate talks crashed in 2009 when Denmark tried the take-it-or-leave it tack with developing countries as well.

Others, though as upset, expressed hope that Morocco would listen to concerns of developing countries over the weekend and not try to push it in the present form through their ministers in the high level segment next week.

Multiple sources at the closed door meetings said all big developing countries, including India, China and South Africa, had expressed serious apprehensions about the document and misgivings about how Morocco planned to get it adopted by all countries.

“If a document of this nature is to be adopted by all heads of states it should have been shared between and negotiated by all of us all well beforehand. At the moment it reads like developed countries’ laundry list,” said a head of a developing country delegation who did not wished to be identified.

“Ministers are not expected to know the implications of each phrase and line and the political message from this document. It will eventually feed into the actual climate negotiations and instruct us on what is to be done with the Paris Agreement in coming years and what not. At Paris we achieved a delicate political balance. Any political message from Morocco has to respect that fine balance and not pick and chose some issues to fast-forward and others to ignore,” he added.

At present, there is no reference in the draft ‘Marrakech Call’ to the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and equity which developing countries fought hard to retain last year in the Paris Agreement in some shape. It does not even make a reference to the umbrella UN Framework Convention on Climate Change once – a de-linking that the developed countries have pushed for over the past five days in the formal talks at Marrakech as well.

“The document states that developed countries are well on way to providing the committed $100 billion, when we know this is an OECD report green-wash which all developing countries have questioned,” said another senior negotiator who had analysed the document for his country delegation.

“It does not talk of climate action that developed countries specifically need to ramp up before 2020. Yet it wants us to create enabling environments for investments that rich countries want to make in our economies’ green transition. The role of private sector and non-state actors is given much greater emphasise than the differentiated and higher responsibility of developed countries in a manner that is not compatible with the Paris Agreement or the Convention. The Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol is not even acknowledged,” he added.

Another negotiator from an African country delegation confirmed that similar concerns had been raised by many countries in the closed door meetings on Friday that they attended. “There is uncertainty right now about how the Moroccan presidency wants to take this forward. Let’s hope it is an inclusive process and we can help the hosts provide the balanced and right ‘Marrakech Call’ that in turn could help it take credit for a successful round of negotiations,” he said.

The heightened concerns over the ‘Marrakech Call’ come against a backdrop of acrimonious formal negotiations over the past five days. Developed countries, including the US, have tried hard to get work moving only on mitigation – reduction of emissions – at the cost of other issues such as adaptation and means of implementation for poor countries. They have also blocked any progress on operationalising the principle of differentiation and equity through the rule book for the Paris Agreement, which is to be built over next year or two. This has been attempted through several routes, including by giving the Paris Agreement procedural primacy over the umbrella UN climate convention where the principles are enshrined.

At the same time several developing countries have expressed concerns internally that the Moroccan presidency should have been more firmly in the driving seat than the previous year’s hosts France and the UN secretariat. “These are not things one talks about out of diplomatic niceties but it gets whispered around when felt. Morocco is a part of the Africa group and the Arab group besides being a G77+China group member. All of us would want Morocco to be successful host and at the same time partner countries expect it to steer the Marrakech call in a balanced fashion.”

Informal discussions behind closed doors over the document are expected over the weekend between countries and with Moroccan presidency to resolve the crisis that threatens the bonhomie global leaders claimed a year ago in France after signing the Paris Agreement.

This article originally appeared at Business Standard.