After two weeks of negotiations overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency, the UN climate talks in Morocco reached a close in the early hours of Saturday morning with negotiators agreeing to finalise the rulebook for the Paris Agreement by 2018.
Seen as a crucial decision for the Marrakesh talks, negotiators agreed to suspend the first meeting of the CMA – the Parties to the Agreement – until 2018 to give time for the remaining countries to ratify the treaty and allow negotiators to finalise the rules for how it will work in practice.
In the talks’ closing plenary countries also presented a roadmap for meeting the 2018 deadline, after many observers noted the slow pace of progress in some areas of the Agreement. The document presented by COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar calls on parties to “accelerate” their progress in working groups ahead of the 2018 deadline.
There will also be one more meeting of the CMA, at COP23 next year, to ensure negotiations are keeping pace with the roadmap.
Economist Lord Stern, author of the influential Stern Review, said progress on the rule book would continue over the coming months. “Countries have taken a significant step forward in Marrakech towards realising the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said in a statement. “I expect further progress over the next year ahead of the next summit in Bonn, Germany, as the world continues to implement the Paris Agreement.”
The decision to settle on 2018 as the target year for the re-introduction of the CMA will mean the next high-profile round of talks will be in Poland, the host country of the COP24 Presidency. 2018 will also see a global stocktake of national climate plans based on the most up-to-date analysis – a process that will prompt a strong expectation for countries to scale up their ambition.
Trump’s election has cast a long shadow over the fortnight’s talks, and no one is yet sure whether the US will continue as a member of the negotiations going forward. Nevertheless, the conference ended on a cautious note of optimism, with a reading of the Marrakesh Action Proclamation yesterday in which countries declared the climate threat an “urgent priority” for every country around the world.
It was widely viewed as a thinly veiled message to President-elect Trump to stand together with the rest of the global community in the fight against climate change.
In his closing press conference earlier on Friday President Mezouar said today the Proclamation is a reassertion of the international community’s determination in the fight against climate change. He called on Trump to show “pragmatism” when considering his next move in the international climate negotiations.
But campaigners expressed relief the talks had not been completely derailed by the American election. “The good news is that country after country here in Marrakesh made it crystal clear over the last week that they intend to implement and strengthen the Paris Agreement, regardless of whether the incoming Trump administration stays in Paris or decides to leave,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy from the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Not one country has said that if President Trump pulls the US out of Paris, they will follow.”
Perhaps the strongest signal of continuing support for the Paris Agreement was the flurry of ratifications which came through during the talks. Since last Wednesday Australia, Botswana, Japan, Pakistan, Italy and the UK have all joined, bringing the total number of ratified Parties to 111.
The talks also saw the first 2050 climate plans from Mexico, Canada and the US, as well as a new commitment from 48 of the world’s poorest countries to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy as soon as possible.
Strong support came as well from civil society, sub-national governments and businesses. In particular, the conference saw more than 360 American businesses call on President-elect Trump to support the Paris Agreement and continuing climate action.
But with the high of Paris now fading, NGOs warned countries must work harder to prepare for the next round of talks, which kick off in Bonn next year. “The negotiations helped by putting 2018 firmly on the map where countries must recalibrate their plans to keep up with the mind blowing speed of change in the markets on green growth,” Liz Gallagher, senior policy advisor at climate think tank E3G, said. “Next year we must focus on securing the standards to which these plans will be held accountable and continue to keep pace with the real-economy and the science.”