This article is written by Lisa Murken
The Moroccan Presidency ambitiously labelled this year’s climate conference the “COP of action”. All throughout Marrakech big red signs remind the visitor of this theme, they say: “Act”, also in Arabic and French. But so far, this conference feels more like a cosy get-together of a relieved climate community that still celebrates last year’s success of the historic Paris Agreement. Maybe it is the very agreeable Moroccan sun and the inviting and interesting city of Marrakech, that makes negotiators and observers alike rather light-hearted and draws attention away from the task ahead.
Of course, the adoption of this immensely important agreement last year is still a huge success, but by now one year has passed and new action is urgently needed. Having just arrived on Monday, the new CliMates observer team for week 2 of the COP was quite surprised to find, that the main bodies of the UNFCCC (SBI, SBSTA and APA) were already scheduled to close on Monday, 14th of November, while the COP22 goes on until this Friday! SBI and SBSTA finally closed this morning as there were some delays, but the question remains: What is going to happen now that is of substantial value for the climate action process?
High-Level talks for high-level slowness
Today high-level talks opened, with some heads of states, but mostly ministers, coming to Marrakech to exchange what is expected to be rather general points on climate change. And what’s more, not only will those talks likely not really advance the process, they also slow down everything else, as spaces are being closed for security reasons and today it is not even allowed to hold “actions” to mobilise for more ambitious climate action.
Then also the CMA, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement is scheduled to start today. However, as countries were quite surprised and taken aback by the rapid ratification of the Paris Agreement, no real output is expected of this first meeting of the Paris Agreement. CMA1 will likely go on until COP24 in 2018. A feeling of urgency has often been demanded at this COP – but at side events, not in the actual negotiation arena. This feeling of urgency is clearly lacking, otherwise this slow progress cannot be explained.
More paralysis than actions
This is especially so in the light of the recent political developments: With the US electing Donald Trump as their new president and more and more horrifying news trickling in about a climate denialist becoming the new head of the US’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you would hope for a strong and determined response by politicians and the climate community alike. However, COP22 seems more paralysed than active, the US election is discussed everywhere, but nobody quite knows how to react to it. In general it seems that national events dominate the talks at COP22, another issue receiving much attention has been the adoption of the German climate protection plan until 2050. In Germany it has actually been criticised by many environmentalists, as it has been considerably watered down by the German Ministry for Economy. In Marrakech it is nonetheless celebrated and praised by many, as it is still the only concrete plan of a country going until 2050, with concrete mitigation goals and sector-specific reduction plans.
On Sunday, a climate justice march took place in Marrakech, with many different organisations and individuals demonstrating for climate justice and urgent climate action. We can only hope that this call has been heard, that politicians will wake up and that there will be no slowing down of climate action, even though the next “important” climate conference is not considered to take place until 2018, when the facilitative process will take place and the state’s NDCs will be evaluated for the first time. This COP is still scheduled for another three and a half days, let’s hope that with negotiations famously “getting more political” in the second week of each climate conference, there will still be some meaningful achievements.
About the author: Lisa Murken is a Master student in Environment and Development at LSE. She is active in CliMates’ « Youth on the Move » project and very passionate about issues of climate vulnerability and climate justice.