A Short Guide to the UN Climate Change Conference

The State-of-Play in the Run-Up to the Marrakech Climate Change Conference

Introduction

Negotiators gathering from November 7–18, 2016, in Morocco face the monumental task of preparing for the implementation the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement. They are under intense pressure to move quickly. Countries must ensure that the various modalities of the Paris Agreement are ready before 2020, which is when implementation of the agreement will effectively start.

This webpage serves as a guide to the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, bringing you up to speed on the status of negotiations and the most significant items on the agenda.

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Remind me—what was agreed in Paris?

Last December, 192 countries committed to a climate change agreement in the French capital that is universally applicable, dynamic and durable. At the heart of the Paris Agreement is a commitment by countries to submit nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which set out targets for reducing greenhouse gases and, in some cases, plans for adapting to climate change.

Collectively, NDCs serve as a road map for limiting global warming. By signing on to the Paris Agreement, virtually all countries have committed to keeping temperatures “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

Given that the effects of climate change are already being felt—and are on trend to intensify—countries also set the goal of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.”

Paris also saw a global re-commitment to the pledge made in 2009 to mobilize USD 100 billion per year to support developing countries in the transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient development, with a new, higher goal to be set after 2025.

Countries will need to report periodically on the level of support provided to developing countries, as well as on their greenhouse gas emissions and progress in implementing their NDCs. To keep all of this on track, a meeting in 2018 will assess progress in enhancing mitigation ambition, followed by a global stock taking in 2023.

These are just some of the highlights. The full text of the Paris Agreement can be found here.

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What has happened since Paris?

On April 22, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York. This was the largest number of countries to ever ink a multilateral agreement on the day it opened for signature.

From May 6–16, negotiators convened in Bonn, Germany, to start developing the “rule book” that will add substance to the Paris Agreement’s provisions; for example, by clarifying how countries will report on their progress and be held accountable through a compliance mechanism. IISD’s Reporting Services provides a comprehensive summary of the Bonn sessions here.

By September, there was significant momentum on the ratification of the Paris Agreement. The United States and China jointly announced their ratification on September 3. On October 5, the threshold for the Paris Agreement’s entry into force was reached when it was ratified by 55 countries representing 55 per cent of global emissions.

As such, the Paris Agreement has come into force less than a year after it was agreed—a remarkable achievement given the historically slow pace of multilateral climate negotiations. Entry into force means that the Paris Agreement’s provisions are legally binding for the countries who ratified the agreement, starting in 2020.

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What about those countries that have not ratified the Paris Agreement?

With the Paris Agreement’s entry into force, Marrakech will mark the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA).

Countries that have not yet ratified the agreement will attend the first CMA, but will not have decision-making authority. That is why many expect that that the CMA will only meet for a brief time in Marrakech—serving essentially as a symbol of successful international climate diplomacy.

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What are the key thematic priorities for COP 22?

Some of the key outcomes of the negotiations in Marrakech revolve around the themes of capacity building and finance, both critical to catalyzing actions in all countries. With respect to financing, we can expect a roadmap to be presented that outlines how developed countries will achieve the goal of mobilizing USD 100 billion per year starting in 2020.

There is also a strong focus on pre-2020 action, recognizing that delays today will undermine countries’ collective ability to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement in the future.

Negotiators will also start considering how to structure and organize a Facilitative Dialogue that will take place in 2018 to take stock of collective progress towards the long-term mitigation goal. This effort could help countries find the motivation and the tools to re-submit more ambitious NDCs before 2020, which will be necessary for global temperatures to stay under two degrees of global warming.

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How has this year’s host, Morocco, put its stamp on the conference?

As the host and president of COP 22, Morocco has strived to maintain the broad mobilization of the business community and other non-state actors witnessed in Paris last year.

Towards that end, Morocco has held several events to encourage dialogue, focused notably on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, adaptation action, countries’ NDCs and capacity building. These efforts will culminate with the High-Level Event on Climate Action, to be held in Marrakech, under the leadership of two “climate champions,” Moroccan Minister for the Environment Hakima El Haite and French Ambassador for Climate Laurence Tubiana. The event will convene country representatives, the business community and civil society to—among other things—provide an overview of progress made by the private sector in support of the Paris Agreement.

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Where can I learn more?

The official COP 22 website highlights what’s happening in, and around, the negotiations. IISD Reporting Services publishes daily reports, photos and videos from Marrakech. The IISD COP 22 webpage showcases IISD events, research and commentaries.

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