Bab Ighli, November 7. It’s pouring rain in Marrakech as wet delegates stream in to the venue. But aside from a few wet briefcases, our spirits are not dampened. A sense of urgency is in the air. Crews are still working frantically to finish the last touches in the pavilions. A reminder of the work that needs to be finished here – and part of Marrakesh’s story.
Many of the delegates are eager to pick up where they left off in Paris at COP21 — and take it further. Because there is opportunity. And because it’s a race against time. Will this spirit carry us through once again, or will the talks get bogged down in old patterns?
We’re told about 18,000 delegates are attending Marrakech – about half of the Paris attendance, but still a huge number. This is being dubbed the ‘COP of Action’: Time to get back to the negotiating table and work out the details of the rule book developed in Paris. And there is a bit of Paris euphoria on Day 1. No one thought the Paris Agreement would come into force so quickly. There even a spirit of collaboration not seen before Paris; a sense that everyone has a part to play.
The good news: Paris was ratified in record time
In the world of policy negotiations, Paris happened at lightning speed – from agreement to ratification and entry into force in 11 months. Other global agreements, like the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, or the Nagoya protocol on access and benefit sharing of biodiversity, took years. As of this week, 100 countries have already ratified the Paris Agreement, and tens of others are working towards ratification, but it came into force November 4, when the magic number needed for ratification (i.e. countries making up at least 55% of global emissions) was achieved in October. Both governments weren’t really prepared for this, and many haven’t planned out what needs to be done in the years between entry into force (now) and the date the Paris Agreement actually kicks in (2020).
The other good news is that the Paris Agreement has built in a carefully constructed, cyclical methodology of bi-annual ‘check-ins’ – by way of creating an upward spiral of agreement, dialogue and stock takes. So, two year after the agreement comes into force, there are the first Facilitated Dialogue in 2018, and the first Global Stock take in 2023, and many other processes in between — such as annual COPs (Conference of Parties), and scientific and technical bodies and working groups in between. Lost in the alphabet soup? Don’t worry, it’s basically a sophisticated methodology to rachet up ambition at every opportunity.
Finally, like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement is universal. Universality means everyone is responsible, and implicated, in this legally binding agreement.
The bad news: We’re short on time (and ambition, action, and funding)
There are 4 crucial years until the Paris Agreement actually starts to get implemented. But why wait that long? There is a palpable sense, particularly among civil society, that more can be done right now. There is too much at stake to wait till 2020. Furthermore, some countries are already bound to act right now, by the commitments they made at previous negotiations (such as COP15 in Cancun). So, the key question is how can we ramp up ambition even in the next 2-4 years. Early ambition is as important as high ambition.
To realize the Paris Agreement commitments, targets are crucial. Global targets (such as the target of keeping temperature rise close to 1.5 degrees) are dependent on national targets for controlling emissions. Countries were asked to submit their intended national targets (called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs), following the Paris Agreement. And those countries who ratified will have to turn these into Nationally Determined Contributions. What is Canada’s plan? Canada first stated that the emissions reductions commitment of reducing greenhouse gases by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030 (a target set by the Harper Government) was a floor, not a ceiling. However, Canada has now made this the national target. Climate Action Network calls this target insufficient, with a more ambitious andreal target being the reduction of emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.
Then there’s the F word. How do we finance all this? The Copenhagen climate meeting (COP16) agreed to $100 billion in financing to start making a serious dent in the climate challenge. We’re far short of this number at the moment, and countries have been asked to work on a ‘roadmap’ of how we’ll get to $100b. And what would be Canada’s share of the financing, as a country with one of the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions? Climate Action Network Canada puts it at about 4% of the $100 billion (ie $4 billion). In 2015, Canada committed $2.65 billion for climate change over 5 years, and it is still not clear whether this is entirely new and additional money. According to some analysts, funds could be reallocated from existing development assistance envelopes, and earmarked for climate change. We can do better.
And, it needs to be said that while states are debating action plans to hold global warming to 1.5-2 degrees, the scientific community suggests that we’re on course for more than 3 degrees warming within this century.
Let’s hope it’s a Good COP.