Did Marrakech climate talks deliver for world’s poorest?

Lead envoy of Least Developed Countries bloc and chief advisor assess whether the COP22 talks last month offer hope dangerous warming will be stopped

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)


The Paris Agreement entering into force in record time, just eleven months after its adoption, framed the Marrakech Climate Conference.

Resource-constrained and vulnerable countries like ours – the least developed countries – do not have the luxury of time to continue negotiations and implementation at a slow pace.

Climate change related events are already causing loss of life and property, with accelerating impacts at home, affecting our fellow delegates between each subsequent round of climate talks.

We looked to Marrakech to give implementation momentum and to ensure that global businesses and political leaders remain engaged and willing to contribute in the fight against climate change and to fully implement the Paris Agreement.

COP22: News, analysis and comment from Marrakech climate talks

The climate talks made progress on several issues important to the least developed countries (LDCs).

One of those is capacity building – helping to ensure that vulnerable countries have the institutional capacity to implement the Paris Agreement and mobilise actions at the country level.

The Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB) established in Paris is now operational and its first meeting in May next year should be able to make substantive progress to start implementing its activities planned for 2016-2020.

Marrakech was also able to lay the foundation for the major international work stream related to loss and damage. 

Even if we limit warming to 1.5C, we know that our people will be dealing with the impacts of climate change that go beyond their ability to adapt.

Therefore, having a strong international framework is essential to ensuring that there are adequate resources and capacities available to deal with these problems.

This was a very hard fought element of the Paris Agreement, and now the institutional basis needs to be built so that this becomes more than words on paper.

Marrakech approved the indicative framework for activities on loss and damage for the next five years and reached agreement on a regular review of the Warsaw International Loss and Damage mechanism to further enhance and strengthen it.

The “Marrakech action proclamation for our climate and sustainable development,” endorsed at the climate talks, sets the tone for Paris Agreement implementation.

The proclamation that is inspirational highlights the importance of moving forward as a united global community in urgently addressing climate change, calling for solidarity amongst all to mobilise efforts and resources towards implementation and actions.

Beside formal negotiations, the Marrakech conference saw key concrete outcomes that included a number of ambitious initiatives, bringing together diverse stakeholders with the aim to increase climate action before 2020.

The ‘Marrakech partnership for global climate action‘ aims to catalyse and support climate action before 2020 through the joint effort of government and non-government initiatives and by increasing flows of finance, technology and capacity building.

There is much to be done through scaling up support and investment in climate solutions before 2020 to lay a foundation to swiftly move towards post-2020 actions.

Vulnerable countries also launched ambitious initiatives during the climate talks.

The Global Partnership on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency brings together five regional renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives from Africa, small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs), as well as collaboration with central American countries.

The Partnership aims to bring renewable energy to 1.3 billion people who currently lack adequate access to energy.

The LDC Renewable energy and energy efficiency initiative (REEEI) for Sustainable Development, also launched in Marrakech, is part of that partnership.

It aims to boost renewable energy in LDCs while promoting energy efficiency, recognising the crucial role that energy plays in rural development, industrialisation and the provision of services.

A number of LDCs who are part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) have also committed to 100 percent domestic renewable energy production by 2050, taking into consideration national circumstances and working together to end energy poverty and protect water and food security.

The decision in Marrakech calling for an acceleration of the work on development of the rule-set of the Paris Agreement is certainly a positive move.

Unfortunately, however, this does ensure the finalisation of work in developing the rule-set for implementation of the Paris Agreement next year, as called by LDCs.

The Marrakech decision relating to the implementation of the Paris Agreement agrees to review progress on the implementation of the work programme under the Paris Agreement in 2017 and finalise the rule-set by COP24 in 2018.

LDCs were of a view that among further work needed in the rule-making process, some work strands can be completed sooner than others.

Nevertheless, the Marrakech decisions have now stalled the final decision making of all the rule-making activities until the end of 2018.

Slow progress

The negotiations since Paris have still not entered the intensive technical discussion mode on a number of issues that were mandated by the Paris outcome. This needs to happen with urgency and energy from the next sessions in 2017 for the full Paris rule-set to be adopted in 2018.

Unfortunately Marrakesh dealt mainly with procedural issues aimed at mapping out a work programme in 2017 for different elements of the rule-set.

Whether it was about defining the nature of countries’ future nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – containing action plans and emission reduction pledges that have to be communicated every five years – or designing the architecture of the transparency and accounting system – so that we all know what each country is doing with equal clarity, the talks moved slowly.

This is hardly the result that one would have expected after a year of intense exchanges of views on these matters.  It is very disappointing that the only result is one calling for further submissions and schedule of workshops.

Such outcomes are very difficult to communicate to people back home who are eagerly waiting to see progress on implementation and actions.

Mobilising finance to assist vulnerable countries with adapting to climate change impacts is the key enabler for promoting implementation and action. Climate finance was high on the agenda in Marrakech, as we expected.

While most developing countries have also submitted plans to limit their emissions in their intended or final NDCs under the Paris Agreement, many have also noted the need for support in order to carry out their commitments.

Some preliminary estimates of the total amount of finance required for developing countries to implement their NDCs exceed $4 trillion USD. Given that only half of developing countries provided estimated costs in their NDCs, the real figure is likely to be much higher.

All this stresses the urgency of NDC implementation and that finance is key to unlocking the much greater ambition required to limit temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and to foster climate resilience and low carbon development.

Marrakech should have reached a milestone in building further clarity on the roadmap for reaching the US$100 billion goal for annual climate finance and scaling up the mobilisation of support before and after 2020.

But COP22 was not able make concrete decisions on finance matters and agreed only to continue the discussions in further subsequent sessions and workshops.

The outcome from the Marrakech did not get to the point of further clarifying the methodologies on how developed countries provided their roadmap on how to reach the $100 billion, nor did it initiate a discussion on how to set a new goal prior to 2025 based which was a mandate from Paris.

The roadmap that developed countries launched in October 2016 shows that there is a great imbalance between adaptation and mitigation finance- even with a pledge to double adaptation finance by 2020 it will be only represent 20% of total climate finance.

Still, we saw a ray of hope on the sidelines of the negotiations, when the Green Climate Fund (GCF) announced it will fund two LDCs (Liberia and Nepal) to prepare their medium and long term adaptation plans (NAPs) through the fund’s new and expedited procedure – the first countries to receive such support.

Also we are grateful for recent pledge made to the LDC Fund that will be used to finance projects that were already submitted.

In LDC Fund, still there are additional 35 projects, worth USD 231.4 million, that are technically cleared and waiting for support have yet to be funded. We look forward for additional contributions for the full implementation of short term (NAPA) and longer term (NAPs) adaptation needs.

1.5 to stay alive

Science tells us that beyond temperature increases of 1.5C, the future of our planet stands on increasingly thin ice. It is imperative for communities across the world that governments take seriously the legally binding long-term 1.5°C temperature limit in the Paris Agreement.

We heard many, including northern non-governmental organisations, describe this as an “aspirational goal”. It is not.

The Paris Agreement is legally binding, and its long-term temperature goal binds all countries to continually update the ambition of their actions to ultimately meet this goal.

The necessary, upward spiralling of actions and commitments to cut emissions to zero by around mid-century is both fair and proportionate to the challenge rising before us. It is vital and not something that can be merely seen as aspirational.

While international political progress over the past year has been significant, countries are still far from implementing actions on the scale required to steer the planet away from dangerous climate change and achieve the goals that have been set under the Paris Agreement.

For developing countries, and in particular the LDCs, it is important to continue working towards a strong and fair international response to climate change, to protect poor and vulnerable communities across the world and safeguard the planet for future generations.

Even though 2018 will be the time for final decision making to endorse the remaining work on finalising the Paris Agreement rule-set, there is much that can and needs be done in 2017.

The workshops and roundtables scheduled throughout 2017 and two formal negotiating sessions must achieve more than calling for the next round of meetings and submissions.

It is very important that as much as possible is done in 2017, as 2018 will be very busy with the Facilitative Dialogue which is focused on the aggregate level of mitigation ambition being put forward by governments in relation to the 1.5C limit in the Paris Agreement, supported by a special-purpose IPCC report on 1.5C, due in September of that year.

The LDC Group at the UN climate change negotiations will be led by Ethiopia for the year 2017 and 2018. Ethiopia has led by example with mobilisation of tremendous efforts at home in promoting climate action and particularly initiatives on renewable energy.

The LDC Group will continue to engage in future subsequent negotiating sessions in a constructive manner and leading by example.

We do not have the luxury of time to continue negotiations without concrete outcomes and we look forward to these outcomes serving the expectations of the poor and vulnerable back home.

LDCs returned home from Marrakech with mixed feelings, but with a confident expectation that the international process will steer towards recognising the urgency of climate action for the planet and its people.

Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu is the Chair of the the least developed countries (LDCs) Group at UN Climate Change negotiations.  Manjeet Dhakal is Advisor to the Chair of the LDC Group.

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