In keeping with the momentum built up in the last one year, countries at the Marrakesh climate change conference on Saturday decided to “accelerate” the work on framing of rules for the Paris Agreement to ensure its early implementation. The more than 190 countries assembled for the annual two-week climate conference agreed to conclude this work “as soon as possible” but not later than 2018. The rules would decide how the Paris Agreement, that was finalised in the French capital last year, would be governed and implemented.
Paris Agreement’s entry into force earlier this month, in less than a year after it was negotiated, was probably the quickest for any major multilateral arrangement of its size and impact. Conceived as the successor to the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2020, the Paris Agreement has been embraced swiftly after coming into being, with 111 countries already having ratified it.
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The decision to complete the rule-book by 2018 means that operationalisation of the provisions of Paris Agreement could begin soon after that, much earlier than expected.
The Marrakesh conference also urged all the developed countries to quickly ratify the Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to ensure greater greenhouse gas emission reductions in the pre-2020 period. This was done at the demand of the developing countries who also wanted to include an April 2017 deadline for doing this, but were unsuccessful.
The Doha Amendments, made at the Doha climate conference in 2012, had extended the obligation of the developed countries to make targetted emission cuts 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. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, 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.
The developing countries had a minor victory on the issue of climate finance as well. In the final decisions, they were able insert a clause asking for a scaling up of financial resources beyond the USD 100 billion per year that developed countries are obligated to mobilise from the year 2020.
“This conference was a success with respect to building momentum from last year’s Paris Agreement, but as we move towards implementation phase, and further negotiations, many polarising issues, like finance and transparency framework, need to be dealt with effectively to ensure that the pace of the momentum continues,” Siddharth Pathak, climate change lead at the Climate Action Network, said.
India, which had been actively raising the issue of early ratification of Doha Amendments, expressed satisfaction at the outcomes. Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said the outcomes from Marrakesh looked small in comparison to the Paris Agreement that resulted from last year’s conference, but they were nonetheless very important.
“One should not look at it from the window of the Paris meeting last year. That was a big event. This (Marrakesh) is a movement towards implementation (phase)… From our point of view, the most satisfying thing about this meeting is that it has moved ahead in the right direction, and remained firmly on track, though there were many attempts to derail it,” Dave said.
The minister was probably referring to the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections that had threatened to hijack the agenda at the Marrakesh meeting, dominating the conversations for many days. Trump, on his campaign trail, had called climate change a “hoax” and promised to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement if elected. Discussions over Trump’s election had overshadowed the Marrakesh conference for several days, though only outside of the formal meetings.
Dave said it was unnecessary to speculate whether Trump would actually pull US out of the Paris Agreement. He said India would in any case move ahead on its low-carbon pathway irrespective of the US decision. “We will move forward with our agenda. Paris Agreement is now a settled fact,” he said.
Apprehensions over an imminent US pull-out, however, did prompt a political appeal from heads of states and ministers who attended the meeting in Marrakesh.
In a statement called the Marrakesh Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Developement, the political leaders said the world had an “urgent duty to respond” to the “alarming and unprecedented” rate of global warming “as a matter of urgent priority”. They called for the “highest political commitment to combat climate change”, and took note of the “extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide” in the last one year, including the finalisation and early ratification of the Paris Agreement.
The proclamation said this momentum was “irreversible”, since it was being driven not just by governments but also by “science, business and global action of all types at all levels”.
“Our task now is to rapidly build on that momentum, together, moving forward purposefully to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to foster adaptation efforts, thereby benefitting and supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals,” it said.
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