As the hottest year on record draws to a close, countries will gather in Morocco from the 7th to 18th of November for the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22). Under a new Executive Secretary, negotiators will attempt to chart the way forwards towards meeting the objectives of the Convention and implementing the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement passed the threshold for entry into force earlier than anticipated after being ratified by 55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions on October 4th,, meaning that the Agreement will enter into force on 4th November and the Marrakech meeting will also host the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA).
Since the Paris Summit, delegates have met all together only once in Bonn where they launched a new working group (the APA), agreed its agenda and shared initial views on the way forward. Due to the rapid ratification process the APA and other bodies have not finalised decisions to present to the COP and CMA. The main substantive issues and challenges facing governments in Marrakech therefore remain largely unchanged.
A critical issue in Marrakech is how the world will achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal pursuing efforts to stay under 1.5°C warming, and the 2016 “facilitative dialogue” could potentially see fiery exchanges between countries over how to ramp up ambition and financial support in the pre-2020 window. With recognition that the 2°C goal does not provide a safe guardrail, with studies under way by the IPCC on the 1.5°C target, and with a narrow window to avoid missing the 1.5°C target altogether countries will have to increase their efforts to reduce emissions under the pre-2020 period of the Kyoto Protocol as well as turn their post-2020 Paris pledges into concrete actions. If not, civil society groups worry they may be tempted to turn to untested “negative emissions technologies” such as bio energy with carbon-capture and storage (BECCS) to avoid warming of up to 3.5°C – a plan which is unlikely to work at scale and likely would conflict with food security and environmental integrity and place a further unfair burden on vulnerable countries
due to its huge demand for land.
The Marrakech meeting’s focus on pre-2020 action is also reflected in a new report “Setting the Path to 1.5°C“, to be launched by a diverse coalition of civil society groups who made a splash last year in Paris with their analysis of countries’ post-2020 pledges, which highlighted how developing countries are as a whole much closer to taking on their fair share of the collective effort than the developed countries. South Africa’s Ambassador Diseko brought the findings of that report into the negotiating sessions of the Paris Agreement, after previously likening imbalance in the negotiations to apartheid – similar dramas could ensue in Marrakech if countries perceive the principle of equity is being undermined.