Marrakesh climate conference: Negotiators give final push, consensus eludes some issues

Developing countries have been demanding a clear roadmap on how this money is going to be raised, and also how this will be scaled up in future.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Marrakesh | Published:November 19, 2016 4:23 am
US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a speech at the COP22 climate conference Wednesday Nov. 16, 2016, in Marrakesh, Morocco.  Kerry says failing to fight climate change would be a "moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequences" during U.N. climate talks in Marrakech.  (Mark Ralston / Pool via AP) US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a speech at the COP22 climate conference, in Marrakesh, Morocco. (AP Photo)

NEGOTIATORS WERE engaged in last-minute bargaining over provisions related to climate finance as they prepared to wrap up discussions at the Marrakesh climate conference on Friday evening, with the satisfaction of having set in motion the process of framing a rule book for the implementation of Paris Agreement.

Meeting in the backdrop of an unexpected early entry into force of the Paris Agreement, that was finalised only last year, the negotiators agreed to finalise the rule book latest by 2018. The more than 100 countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement met separately and decided to accelerate this process and review the progress next year. Some long-standing contentious issues, however, continued to evade a consensus. Late into Friday evening, on the last day of the two-week annual conference, negotiators were trying to balance the demands of different countries on two key issues, climate finance and emissions reduction by developed countries in the pre-2020 period.

Developed countries are obligated to mobilise at least USD 100 billion every year from 2020 to help poor and vulnerable countries fight climate change. Developing countries have been demanding a clear roadmap on how this money is going to be raised, and also how this will be scaled up in future. Before the start of the Marrakesh conference, a study commissioned by the UK and Australia had claimed that the developed world was on its way to raise at least USD 62 billion by 2020 just from public sources.

Developed countries were trying to get a reference to this report included in the final outcome as evidence of their commitment to raising the necessary climate finance.

Developing countries, including India, have however been claiming that these calculations had “methodological problems” and involved double counting. They do not want any reference to the report in the outcome documents, and instead want the developed countries to make an explicit assurance to meet their commitments.

The other provisions developing countries are fighting to get included in the final decision relate to the pre-2020 commitments of the developed countries in the Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol.

The Doha Amendments, made at the Doha climate conference in 2012, extended the obligation of the developed countries to make targetted cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions up to the year 2020. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 had initially assigned emission cut targets to the developed countries only till 2012. Most developed countries have not yet ratified the Doha Amendments.

Developing countries have been putting pressure on the developed world not to ignore their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, now that the Paris Agreement had come into existence. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which runs only till 2020, the Paris Agreement is not legally-binding, and does not assign any emission cut targets on any country. Under Paris Agreement, every country decides for itself the actions that it wants to take to fight climate change.

In Marrakesh, developing countries are fighting to include a provision calling for an early ratification of Doha Amendments in the final decisions.

Developing countries had managed to get a reference to both these issues included the Marrakesh Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development that was issued on Thursday evening. The proclamation, essentially a political statement, was conceived last week in an attempt to emphasise on the global unanimity in the fight against climate change, after the US presidential elections resulted in the victory of Donald Trump who had, during his campaign, promised to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The proclamation called for the “highest political commitment to combat climate change”, and said nations had an “urgent duty to respond” to the “alarming and unprecedented” rate of global warming “as a matter of urgent priority”.

Marrakesh meeting also saw major progresses on a number of initiatives, including India’s International Solar Alliance, that are outside of the negotiation process.