There was a rare show of unity amongst countries on the penultimate day of the 22nd Conference of Parties (CoP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A declaration signed by 196 countries and the EU bloc called “for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority.” Called the Marrakesh Action Proclamation, the declaration is a turnaround of sorts compared to the proceedings of the preceding 10 days, when dissensions between developed and developing countries threatened to undo the good work of the Paris CoP. As the heads of delegations held hands in solidarity, they delivered a strong message to US President-elect Donald Trump: His country will be isolated if he executes his threat of pulling the US out of the Paris climate pact.
Marrakesh’s successes, and failures, however, go beyond the strong message to the US President-elect. In the Moroccan city, negotiators had to set in motion processes to operationalise the Paris treaty. They just about managed to do that. It was only on the final day of the 12-day meet that the countries agreed to a 2018 deadline for framing rules to operationalise the Paris pact. If things go according to plan, the new climate treaty could come into effect much before the 2020 deadline set in Paris. Marrakesh had another mandate: To ensure developed countries honour the commitments they had made before the Paris CoP. The money pledged at Marrakesh —about 150 million dollars — is a drop in the ocean given that at the CoPs in 2009 and 2010, rich countries had committed to jointly raise 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. But the developing countries had a minor victory when they were able to insert a clause, in the final decisions, asking for a scaling up of financial resources beyond $ 100 billion dollars, per year, after 2020.
The biggest takeaway from Marrakesh, however, is that, unlike in the past, the developing countries are not going to be bogged down by the stingy ways of the industrialised countries. At the sidelines of CoP 22, India took the lead in cementing the International Solar Alliance — a group of developed and developing nations that aims to make solar power competitive vis-a-vis conventional energy. A 47-nation coalition, that includes some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, pledged to chart a roadmap to clean energy. The US under Trump, and the West at large, will go against the momentum if they remain indifferent to such initiatives.