Finally moving from negotiations to action

The 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Marrakech, Morocco, came to an end on November 18 with the adoption of the Marrakech Call for Action to implement the Paris Agreement which was adopted at COP21 a year ago and came into force in Marrakech. This marks a very significant turning point in the history of the UNFCCC negotiations, as we are now finally moving from talking about taking actions to actually taking actions.

This is crucial for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as Bangladesh, as climate change impacts are already occurring in this country, so adaptation action is urgent for us.

At the same time, if the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees is to be achieved then actions on mitigation is also equally urgent for all countries, but especially for the major emitting countries.

While the result of the US presidential elections in the first week of COP22 hit all the negotiators hard (and perhaps the US negotiators the hardest) as an unexpected bolt from the blue, nevertheless by the second week of the COP, the momentum for action had been restored and all the countries, including the US (where President Obama remains in charge until January), agreed to accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement.

By the second week in Marrakech, after the initial shock waned, the US negotiators adopted the position that the US as a country had ratified the Paris Agreement and would continue to fulfill its obligations to take actions. At the High Level Session, Secretary of State John Kerry, who had personally negotiated the Paris Agreement last year, gave an emotional speech in which he reiterated the US’ commitment to abiding by their obligations solemnly undertaken under international law.

The presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from Bangladesh at the High Level Session underscored Bangladesh’s determination to remain committed to taking actions to implement the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

Perhaps the most important action initiative was announced on the last day of the COP, when nearly fifty members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) announced their collective intention to become 100 percent renewable by 2050, and in some cases by 2030. This was a major commitment from the most vulnerable countries and was a clear challenge to all the other countries to follow their lead.

Thus the CVF has now turned from a group of mostly poor and vulnerable developing countries advocating for action to keep temperature below 1.5 to a group of leaders in tackling climate change on the ground. Thus, even though their collective emissions of greenhouse gases are small relative to others, they are nevertheless willing to step up to take action because it is the right thing to do.

At the same time the CVF’s Expert Advisory Group, which I chair, also issued a scientific report showing that not only is keeping below 1.5 degrees possible, it also presents opportunities and even potential benefits to countries.

Thus, the Marrakech COP truly heralds a move towards actions that are in fact taking place at an accelerated speed and that has superseded the realm of endless negotiations about how to take actions that has now been resolved by the Paris Agreement coming into force, thereby becoming international law in record speed.

Finally, a few words about the role of Bangladesh both in the negotiations at the COP as well as at home. The Prime Minister in her speech quite rightly pointed out the many actions that the country is taking at home while also appealing to the international community to do more on migration and loss and damage. The Bangladeshi Negotiators who often lead for the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group in different tracks did an excellent job and civil society and media representatives also played a significant role in Marrakech.

As Bangladesh is a founding member, as well as past Chair, of the CVF and as this forum, along with it’s group of Finance Ministers (called the V20 Group) is now moving towards South-South collaborative actions on the ground, Bangladesh needs to step up sharing its knowledge, especially on adaptation, with other member countries of the CVF. Thus Costa Rica has already set up a South-South Centre on Renewable Energy and Philippines one on Climate Services so Bangladesh could think about setting up a South-South Centre on Adaptation Technology as a public-private partnership between the Government, the Universities, NGOs and private sector.

p>Originally this article was published on Tuesday November 22, 2016 at Daily Star. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).