Marrakesh Cop22 talks back bold climate action but will they deliver?

Delegates play with an inflacted globe at Cop22 in Marrakesh
Delegates play with an inflacted globe at Cop22 in Marrakesh AFP

World leaders gathered in Marrakesh this week have pledged to raise their ambitions on climate action to meet the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. But, as the Cop22 UN climate talks wind down, campaigners continue to press for clearer funding targets for poor countries.


All is quiet now at the Bab Ighli village site in Marrakesh.

For two weeks this oasis of palm trees and white tents in Berber style, was awash with participants from nearly 200 countries. Some, more prestigious than others - it wasn’t unusual for visitors to bump into the likes of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon or France’s Environment Minister Ségolène Royal.

Celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio and US rapper Akon were also present, albeit less accessible. Bringing in big names to hype the UN’s 22nd conference on climate change may have assured media attention, but Marrakesh is not Paris.

“We knew coming in here that this was a Cop to really follow up on the Paris agreement, the Cop21,” says Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

“While the Paris Cop21 was a big event, we knew this wasn’t going to be quite as exciting. But, nonetheless, the importance was to ensure that the procedures to implement the Cop21 were put together.”

Policy makers at Cop22 spent late nights clarifying the rules on countries’ climate plans. In the lead-up to Paris, each country submitted a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to stay below the warming target of 2°C. This action plan is largely what made the success of Paris.

Mitigation v adaptation

The problem is that there is too much emphasis on mitigation and not enough on adaptation, the least developed countries argue.

“We do not produce a lot of greenhouse gases,” explains Slater. “But we suffer most of the impact and that is why we would like to have more investment in adaptation to make us more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Organisers at Marrakesh say they have heard the message.

“What we’ve done in Marrakesh is establish a network of experts which will help governments, businesses and communities pool all of their resources together to better structure projects that will become bankable,” says Cop22 president and Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar.

West accused of hogging finance

Up until now, investors have swarmed into renewable energy projects such as solar power – with China being a good example.

However, projects to help developing countries adapt to the consequences of climate change have been less forthcoming, admits Mezouar.

“There are numerous adaptation projects that require funding and this has been the main focus of our discussions: linking project managers with investors.”

How exactly, remains unclear.

“Even if 100 billion dollars will soon be available (through the Global Climate Fund), Africa doesn’t have access to even one billion,” argues Vincent Oparah, from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).

Vulnerable countries have missed out on funding from mechanisms such as the Green and Pension Fund because of poor planning.

“Western countries, which are not even suffering the problem of climate change as much as in Africa, they’re accessing those funds! So these are the questions we’re asking,” says Oparah.

A new coalition of countries, including Australia, the UK and the US, was announced at Marrakesh with an aim to help developing nations deliver on their climate plans.

Yet delegates avoided putting pen to paper on their targets for leveraging 100 billion dollars for the Global Climate Fund (GCF) by 2020.

The election of Donald Trump as US president has cast that into doubt, amid concerns that if he pulls the US out of the Paris Agreement there will be a gap of up to 25 billion dollars to fill.

Even if there isn’t, the world is still heading towards a path of 4°C, warns the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), urging bolder ambition.

Momentum growing

Ambitious promises punctuated talks at Marrakesh throughout.

Like a married couple renewing their wedding vows, the delegates sought to reinforce their unity in response to the threat of Trump's professed climate scepticism.

Those vows will see the calendar for implementing the Paris Agreement speeded up from 2020 to 2018.

And a “global stocktake” to track progress will take place in 2023 instead of 2025, before another evaluation in 2028.

Momentum is growing, says Cassie Flynn, climate advisor at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP.)

“In Paris, we defined the engine for bringing down carbon emissions, in Marrakesh we’ve found the parts to that engine,” she said, after the Marrakesh Proclamation was passed.

The parts? Trust and willingness to do more.

Poor countries will be waiting. Marrakesh may have bought them time to build up their capacities to present climate-friendly projects that investors will buy.

In 2020, when the GCF fund is launched, rich countries will be compelled to deliver.

To read Christian Okello's reports and our other coverage of Cop22 click here

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