Marrakech Last Day

It is the last day of COP22 here in Marrakech. An agreement (of sorts) is expected to emerge sometime this evening, but before it does, here are some ‘take homes’ from the UN Climate Change gathering so far.


It is the last day of COP22 here in Marrakech. An agreement (of sorts) is expected to emerge sometime this evening, but before it does, here are some ‘take homes’ from the UN Climate Change gathering so far.

1. Marrakech is no Paris. Last year at COP21 in Paris there was fervent activity, French ministers and diplomats ranging across the piste, a sense of momentum and a sense of direction. All that is missing from Morocco.  Paris was a climactic deal; it set targets (halting temperature rise at well below 2°C, with a hat tip to 1.52°C) and it defined costs ($100bn a year to address climate change).  Morocco was meant to be about defining the transparent delivery mechanisms to measure and meet the targets (the ‘rule book’). Instead, the Moroccan negotiators have sought to re-open elements of the Paris text and focused on the delivery of a ‘declaration’ (code for warm words and hot air).  In the words of lead EU negotiator Miguel Arias Cañete, ‘Not enough serious steps have been taken for the implementation of Paris.’

The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, declared the Marrakech Conference a ‘turning point in the implementation process of the historic Paris Agreement.’ He may well be right in all the wrong ways.

2. The US election has cast a pall over proceedings. I wrote yesterday about the intervention of Secretary of State John Kerry and the relief with which his words were greeted. Last evening the deputy US climate change negotiator Karen Florini came to speak to the MEP delegation. The mood in the room would have made a wake seem jolly. Things to note: (i) Ms Florini will lose her job in 62 days; (ii) there was no communication whatsoever between the current US Climate negotiating team and Camp Trump before Marrakech; (iii) although the US has pledged $2.5bn to the Green Climate Fund, only $500m has been delivered to date. The remainder of the cash will depend upon President Trump and the Republican Congress; (iv) Ms Florini is resigned to the fact that the US will abdicate its role as a climate change leader.

3. Despite claims that the momentum behind Paris is too great, that the dedication of the 190+ signatories is enough, and that the climate agenda will roll on inexorably, Marrakech has revealed how fragile the consensus is and how dependent the process is upon a limited cast of actors. 

4. There is still not enough money on the table to deliver against the various needs and ambitions of the developing world (and see point 2.iii above). Although there is much talk of global ambition, funding rests upon the commitment of relatively few (the US, the EU, Canada, Japan, Australia, Norway in the main). Leveraging all the money available will become all the more critical. During COP20 in Lima I wrote about leveraging, and the notorious ‘onion’ diagram.  You can read the article here. Whilst each of the signatories of the Paris Accord has set out their own declared path to decarbonisation, most depend in large part or small upon external funding.

5. Commissioner Cañete believes that the days of COP in its current incarnation are numbered. The event next year, although chaired by Fiji, will actually take place in the headquarters of the UNFCCC in Bonn. Cañete is clear that in the current climate, the public will little tolerate such grand gatherings with such modest outcomes.

6. The air quality in Marrakech is dreadful. It catches the back of your throat. Spend time walking the streets and smog is your constant companion. You can literally see it, smell it and hack it up. Smog and air quality are important drivers of decarbonisation in many developing countries; think China, think India. The air quality in the city is also a clear reminder that our transport sectors depend almost exclusively upon fossil fuels, and despite recent progress (ICAO for aviation and the IMO for maritime are on the case) transport lags well behind all others when it comes to decarbonisation. Something upon which the 10,000 delegates who flew into Marrakech may wish to reflect.