It remains to be seen if COP22 will achieve the necessary actions, the outcome of which may take many years to confirm.
The Paris climate agreement came into force last week as over 190 countries ratified it, including the world’s four largest emitters: China, the US, the European Union and India. Today, the next phase begins with the UN Climate change convention’s 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. While this meeting is unlikely to receive the headline coverage of its Paris predecessor, it will be a critical test of whether countries are to translate a largely symbolic promise into positive and accountable action.
There is little doubt that, despite the efforts of deniers and vested interests who do not want to see the negative effects of climate change proven and documented, the global population increasingly is taking notice of volumes of new scientific evidence that climate change must be confronted. Every month this year, for instance, has been the hottest since records have been kept, the Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have not only crossed the 400 parts per million but are unlikely to drop below this level any time soon.
But while the Paris Agreement articulated the need to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees C, and sought to peak emissions as soon as possible, these were intentions rather than binding outcomes based on legally enforceable actions. Furthermore, and recognising the urgent programme that many countries have accepted to conduct a formal stocktake of actions undertaken in 2018, and to review targets in 2023, it is vital that national plans be set and implemented as soon as possible.Source: NASA in The Conversation, 3 November 2016.
One factor that will attract considerable debate is that the most vulnerable countries that have had the least to do with causing the problem are also the least able to implement the measures needed to confront the problem. Many of the problems, for instance, relate to water and agriculture. It goes without saying, therefore, that Marrakech needs to ensure that funds are readily available, largely from developed countries to support developing countries.
In summary, therefore, while Paris delivered an agreement, Marrakech has the more challenging goal of delivering action. This includes determining what must be done and doing this in a timely and accountable manner. This will not be easy.
Australia is expected to ratify the Agreement later this year. This will require increased efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses and to provide additional funding. Australia will also be required to increase its climate mitigation targets every five years. A long-term, low-carbon strategy will also need to be presented to the UN by 2020. For this to occur, greater consultation will be needed between all levels of government, between departments that include science, agriculture and the environment and with industry and other stakeholders. It is also vital that a national list of scientific requirements be identified, prioritised and funded.
The need for positive action will become increasingly evident both globally and at a national level.