Marrakech Reflections

The Marrakech UN Climate Change Conference, COP22, is over. You probably missed it. But what was actually agreed in Morocco?


The Marrakech UN Climate Change Conference, COP22, is over. You probably missed it. Last year the conclusion of the Paris climate talks was greeted by hugging world leaders, celebrities dancing on table tops, fireworks and champagne. This year, the last man to leave the plenary tent switched off the lights.

In truth Marrakech was never going to be another Paris. In Paris, the world committed to halting temperature rise at well below 2oC, while developed nations agreed to find €100bn a year for climate action.  Paris was about the deal. Marrakech was meant to be about the delivery.   

Patricia Espinosa, Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), declared that, ‘COP 22 has been what it needed to be, a COP of action that has accelerated progress under the Paris Agreement across finance, new initiatives, ambition and solidarity between nations and across Continents.’  You can tell she is a diplomat.

Salaheddine Mezouar, the Moroccan chairman stated: ‘At the outcome of the last fifteen days, our vision has been consolidated and we are working to make concrete progress and to carry out breakthrough actions from now until the end of 2017.’ Another diplomat there.

In the by-going, like an evangelical gathering, many businesses, investors, cities and local governments threw their arms in the air, declared that they had seen the light, and would change their ways. Nations at the sharp end of the climate crisis demanded the globe leap over the 2oC target and head swiftly toward 1.5oC. Several states - the US (for the moment anyway), Canada, Germany, Mexico -  took the opportunity afforded by Marrakech to set out their own road to decarbonisation. Back in the homeland Boris Johnson signed the Paris Accord on behalf of the United Kingdom.

But what was actually agreed in Morocco?

Rule Book

Marrakech was meant to be all about determining the rules by which the Paris objectives would be delivered. Its key elements: (i) transparency; (ii) establishing a methodology to measure and audit emission reduction; (iii) assessing the price tag of the climate projects and developing payment vehicles; and (iv) setting rules to facilitate technology transfer between the developed to the developing world. 

Progress: Not much. Agreement was reached on the need to reach agreement though, by 2018 (if possible).

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

A new $50m fund (Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency) was established - with donations from 11 nations, including the US and the Belgian region of Wallonia (fresh from its tussle with Canada) - to assist developing nations measure their emissions output and track progress in emission reduction. In addition, seven developing countries committed to opening themselves up to a peer review on their progress to a low carbon economy.

Progress: If the Paris Accord is to deliver carbon reduction transparency and trust are essential. However, with three-quarters of global emissions produced by only a handful of nations[1], it could be argued the real need for transparency rests elsewhere.

Show me the money

Whilst monies were committed to a number of ancillary climate funds (Adaptation Fund: $81m; Climate Technology Centre & Network: $23m), the real issue rests with the Green Climate Fund (GCF). At present, the GCF in on track to approve $2.5 billion worth of projects, which is ironic, since this is exactly the same amount of cash promised by the USA, of which it has delivered only $500m. The prospect of the remaining monies ever arriving in the GFC coffers now depend upon President Trump.

Progress: Of sorts, but much still hinges upon the USA, that and the challenge of leveraging the initial commitments into serious money.

So what happens now?

My first blog from Marrakech (which you can find here) was tweeted out along with a poster from the film ‘The Road to Morocco’ (1942). The ‘Road to…’ films - there were seven in total -were a staple of my Saturday afternoons growing up. Bob Hope was invariably the cowardly ‘shnook,’ Bing Crosby the smooth-talking, crooning, trickster. Over its 22 year run, the characters changed but the roles remained the same.

The same could well be said of the UN COP gatherings. Next year we take the Road to Fiji (although it only stretches as far as Bonn) the year after is the Road to Poland. The characters may change but the roles remain the same. The problem with the ‘Road to…’ films was that the cinema-going public eventually moved on to younger stars, newer entertainments. The same fate may yet await the COP gatherings, as the public wearies of the 10,000+ circus travelling the globe with little to show for its endeavours.


[1] China, USA, the EU 28, India, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia , Mexico, Canada). Source: EcoWatch (2015).