Paris Agreement on Climate Change revs up

The morning of last Monday in Marrakech, Laurent Fabius, the Environment Minister of France, who was president of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) since last December, handed over the presidency to Hakima El Haite, the Environment Minister of Morocco. She has now taken over as President of COP22 here in Marrakech.

This has now kicked off the next two weeks of discussions about how all countries can ramp up action to tackle climate change, as was agreed at the Paris Agreement last year. The good news is that more than a hundred countries have already ratified the Paris Agreement and it came into force as international law this week. Hence, the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement will be held in Marrakech on November 15, with a number of heads of governments attending, including Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina.

The bad news is that the actions required to meet the long term temperature goal of 1.5 degree Celcius are far more difficult than simply agreeing to it on paper as we did last year in Paris. If we add up all the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that countries have put forward so far, we are still headed for more than 2 degrees.

Thus, each and every country, including both poor as well as rich nations, will need to agree to increase their level of ambition, so that collectively the temperature can be kept at 1.5 degrees.

Morocco has been a first mover in building the biggest solar array for grid electricity in the world. This demonstrates that solar energy is now going to scale at the level of fossil fuel driven power plants of the last century.

Countries from China to the US are now investing in large scale renewable energy to generate electricity, and last year, the total global investments in renewable energy surpassed investment in fossil fuel based energy generation.

Thus, it seems that the world may be about to reach a tipping point away from fossil based energy to renewable energy, which needs to be undertaken at accelerated scales by each and every country in order to ensure that the temperature is kept below the 1.5 degree Celcius long term temperature goal agreed in the Paris Agreement.

In addition to the need to ramp up ambition towards renewable energy, COP22 will also be the “Loss and Damage COP”, as a very important decision has to be taken on the report of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damage, alongside the adoption of a new five year work programme. This topic is a highly political one as the developed countries are trying to delay decisions and want to continue to talk and collect evidence while the developing countries, led by the most vulnerable nations, want to move into action on the basis of what we already know. This will be a contentious issue over the next two weeks in Marrakech.

Finally, in COP22 as in every previous COP, financing actions to tackle climate change will once again be a bone of contention. This issue does not have so much to do with new decisions to be taken in COP22, but rather to agree on ways to implement previous COP decisions, starting with the pledge by developed countries to provide USD 100 billion US a year from 2020 to the developing countries to tackle climate change. So far, they have delivered around USD 10 billion mainly through the Green Climate Fund (GCF), but it is flowing at a trickle pace and thus needs to be ramped up both in quantity as well as swiftness of delivery.

Bangladesh, as always, will be expected to play an important part in the COP with the government delegates negotiating as part of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group with NGOs, academics and media all playing their respective roles to ensure that the country is seen as a leader in tackling climate change, even though it remains a poor and vulnerable nation.

This year the presence of the Prime Minister on the last days of the COP will be an added opportunity for showcasing Bangladesh’s leadership in tackling climate change .

I will be reporting back regularly from Marrakech on the progress of the talks.

Originally this article was published on Wednesday November 09, 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).