The 22nd Conference of Parties of the United Nations climate change treaty ended here Friday, disappointing the expectations of those who were waiting for the delegates to make world-changing decisions for the future of the planet and humanity.
A year after the signing of the Global Agreement, and after the formal entry into force of last year’s Paris instrument by 195 countries, the translation of the objectives to the operational level still appears very far away.
Mounting scientific evidence adds pressure to the negotiations: the temperature records that move up in the thermometer year after year, the concentration of CO2 that stably exceeds 400 ppm, the 250,000 deaths caused every year by climate change, the scenarios based on pledged national carbon emissions reductions that bring the average increase in temperature by the end of the century to as much as 3.4 degrees Celsius. But at the same time, indolence dominates the diplomacy, and it’s difficult to find a global balance.
Looking closely at the questions up for decision and listening to the content of the discussions of the delegates seated at the tables, it is clear that the instruments of governance, which were laboriously put into place, are not enough. Starting from the lack of coercive instruments: How can an agreement be defined as binding if it does not provide nor will it include sanctions for those who fail to perform?
Among the main points to be resolved, remains the uncertainty about the transparency criteria to measure the commitments defined at a national level. Also, the goal of mobilizing $100 billion by 2020 for the Green Climate Fund seems far away.
The statements of heads of state and ministers were divided into two narrative registers. The words of the northern countries were marked by optimism and triumphalism, while the declarations of the southern countries show concern for the implementation limits and the need to revive the action.
The only good news comes from voluntary positions statements. The Climate Vulnerable Forum — a group of the 48 countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts, including Bangladesh, Madagascar, Costa Rica and Vietnam — has announced plans to take immediate action by setting up plans to transition to 100 percent renewable energy as soon as possible and trying to contain the global temperature increase to within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The statement follows an announcement released earlier this week by the U.S., Canada and Mexico: The three North American countries have set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2050. The Obama administration continues to act on climate change as if nothing had happened. In conjunction with COP22, the White House sent to the U.N. a detailed plan to achieve the goal of decarbonization by 2050. The goal is very far in the future, but the specter of Trump has pushed for greater ambition. Germany also announced the launch of a similar road map to 2050.
The recurring mantra, which filled the pages of newspapers and gave the headline to the final statement, of Friday focuses on the irreversibility of the process launched in Paris. Lashed by the election of the U.S. tycoon, the COP22 flew to the defense of the agreement. In this sense, the words of French President Francois Hollande at the opening of the High Level Session were reiterated by many of the political representatives present.
The final document, titled “Marrakech Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development” — a skimpy page of vague statements of principle — glorifies “extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide. … Our task now is to rapidly build on that momentum”
The text concludes by seeking “the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority.” That’s how they wrote it, as though the subjects expected to make this effort were not the same ones who signed the document.
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