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COP22 – A step forward but many questions to answer

COP22 was held in Marrakech, Morocco from 8-19th November 2016. Its attendance was about 22,500 of which 16,000 were government officials including 50 heads of state and government during the high-level segment. Two major tasks stood out, firstly, continuing the momentum that had been generated by the rapid ratification and entry into force of the Paris Agreement, and secondly, continue (and in some case start) the technical work to complete the modalities, procedures and guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Marrakech can claim success in both issues as well as seeing the launch of a number of other actions. These include the Presidency-led Marrakech Action Proclamation calling for the highest political action to tackling climate change and the launching of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which aims to strengthen the Lima/Paris Global Climate Action Agenda and provides a roadmap for action from 2017 to 2020 designed to catalyze and showcase pre-2020 action by state and non-state actors. High-level events on accelerating action and on climate finance were also held. By the end of the meeting, 113 nations had ratified the Paris Agreement.

Other events during the meeting saw the USA, Canada, Mexico and Germany publish their 2050 strategies. Germany targets an 80-95% cut from 1990 levels in line with EU ambitions, while the USA and Canada plans 80% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2050. The Climate Technology Centre and Network received $23 million in funding (enough to cover its current project portfolio) and the Adaptation Fund (now short of financing as there is little CDM “Share of Proceeds income) received $81 million.

The formal negotiations resulted in decisions that primarily outlined the timetable for future work and requested submissions from governments on the topics under discussion. Firstly, the COP and CMA decisions set 2018 as the deadline for completion of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement. Common timeframes for NDCs will also be addressed by the SBI in 2017 as will Article 12 of the Paris Agreement (education, training and public awareness) that had not been previously assigned in Paris.

The Ad-hoc Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) which has the responsibility of developing the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, developed a series of informal notes on mitigation, adaptation, transparency, the global stocktake, implementation and compliance, and further matters relating to implementation, as well as a series of questions to guide submissions on the topics by governments plus a work programme for 2017.

In particular, under the APA, important progress was made on how the 2018 facilitative dialogue (to take stock of collective progress towards the Paris Agreement’s long-term emissions goal) will be structured. The COP22 and 23 Presidents were requested to undertake consultations on the organization of this dialogue and report back to COP23. The transparency framework discussions led to a series of questions for governments to address in submissions followed by a workshop in May 2017 to address the themes from the submissions.

A number of “old” issues emerged during the discussion on developing various parts of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement with “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities ”being cited many times. The lack of pre-2020 action by developed countries (and the fact that the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol has yet not entered into force) proved a major stumbling block and helped delay the conclusion of the meeting. This topic will return in 2017.

Discussions on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on cooperative approaches (A6.2), a new market mechanism (A6.4) and non-market-based approaches (A6.8) started well with a good technical discussion on elements needed for their operation. However, there were problems on how to move forward particularly as a balance in the discussions had to be maintained between market and non-market issues for political reasons. Possibly the most important issue is that the mechanisms/approaches defined in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement will operate in the context of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and governments committed to “enhancing ambition”. The review of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) also continued. Some governments believe that the CDM should transition directly into the mechanism in Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement whereas others believe that whilst experiences gained (and some of the modalities and procedures developed) should be used, a direct transition is not useful. It has to be determined where issues that are being raised in both discussions such as governance, net contribution, double counting should be resolved. The Article 6 discussions concluded with a call for further government submissions and a roundtable. This was clearly not the progress that business had looked for.

Discussions started (and were partially resolved) on a number of other issues. A decision was taken that the Adaptation Fund, started under the Kyoto Protocol, would serve the Paris Agreement, although submissions on how this would operate were requested. The Paris Committee on Capacity-building will start work in 2017, and there was agreement on a five-year rolling work plan for the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on loss and damage, and for subsequent periodic reviews of the WIM.

Decisions to reach an amendment under the Montreal Protocol in Kigali to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s new offsetting mechanism for carbon emissions from the international aviation sector were demonstrated as significant climate action.

COP22 in Marrakech provided a good step towards the development of the rulebook that will enable the Paris Agreement to become operational. However, much work still requires to be done. In particular, the submissions from governments on the various topics will bring forward areas of divergence (as well as, hopefully, areas of convergence) that will have discussed and resolved. The meetings in 2017 in May and November will be interesting.

Last updated: 6 November 2017