A lot has happened since the conference began which may affect the outcomes, not least the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. There had been the expectation that Hillary Clinton would take the presidency and resulting from this disappointment representatives from the UN conference in Marrakesh have urged Donald Trump not to abandon the Paris Agreement on climate change. There has been no word on this from the president-elect so far but judging from the rhetoric during the campaign it is likely that environmental issues are not being seen as a high priority.
In spite of this, however, there were still a few notable outcomes from the Marrakesh conference. The first was to do with finance, i.e. how much countries are willing to contribute annually to the initiative aimed at mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. The figure has been set at “$100bn a year by 2020” which will coincide with the start of the Paris Agreement that is set to overtake the Kyoto Protocol in tackling emissions globally. Some of the delegate nations had hoped for more stringent enforcement of this target, as mitigation tends to affect the most vulnerable countries.
Also discussed was the Adaptation Fund, a body which exists to serve the Kyoto Protocol, and it was argued that this should be transferred to the aegis of the Paris agreement in 2020. These talks fell flat with countries agreeing to merely discuss the issue and hand in their views by March 2017. Therefore there is no consensus yet as to what will happen to the mitigation fund prior to 2020 when the Paris agreement supersedes the Kyoto Protocol.
Additionally, there was the discussion of the organization of the ‘2018 facilitative dialogue’ which references Article 4 of the Paris Agreement and the outline to generate net-zero emissions by half by the second half of the century. The discussion is intended to inform the next round of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and countries will be consulted on their intended contribution reporting back in a year’s time. With the goal of net-zero emissions for the second half of the century a key outcome of these talks was the creation of a ‘rulebook’ for countries to follow in achieving that aim. The discussion over the various technicalities – baselines and methodologies – to achieving this will also likely be discussed well into 2018.
There was discussion also about how to deal with the so-called ‘orphan issues’ of the Paris Agreement, i.e. issues for which nobody had been assigned responsibility and these included items such as common timeframes for cutting emissions and new goals for climate finance. The countries did however manage to secure a five-year work plan on loss and damage, this dealt with other things affected by climate change such as the loss of and damage to national identity for example, migration and other slow-onset impacts of climate change, and this is due to start in 2017.
The talks will no doubt continue far into the future with the next conference set to take place in Bonn Germany in 2019. Whether or not the outcomes of the talks will ultimately be successful rests on the whims of the countries involved, there is the growing concern of the US scrapping Obama’s Clean Power Plan by Donald Trump, for example. However, there are some encouraging news with 22 countries committing to long term plans to tackle climate change, including the UK. But whether these talks will ultimately be successful in implementing policies to tackle climate change, only time will tell.
By Sam Cottle