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Why The Marrakesh Climate Summit Will be Much More Important Than Paris

Marrakesh, Morocco Photo: Thomson.co.uk

Did you know that this year’s UN climate summit will be even more important than Paris?

Paris – also known as COP21 – was big, it was a huge milestone in the world’s effort to launch a global response to climate change. But it was also very high level, focused on the broader strategies.

The Paris Agreement was a major tipping point, but it does not specify how exactly we’re going to keep the rise of temperatures “well below” two degrees Celsius, as the legal text requires.

Deal on The Details

This is where Marrakesh comes in. Representatives from the 197 countries that were part of the deal in Paris are already working behind the scenes to come up with implementation plans.

In November – hosted by Morocco’s environment minister Hakima El Haite – their political masters will meet at the 22nd climate change summit, COP22, to agree on the details.

Success in Marrakesh

Marrakesh will be the nitty gritty compared to the Paris summit. It may initially not attract as much high-level political interest, and celebrities might not be as active.

But make no mistake: for climate action, it will be much more important.

If Marrakesh is no success, the Paris Agreement may become the next Kyoto protocol. Kyoto was adopted almost 20 years ago and was considered a political success story. But despite formally achieving its targets, it has not been very effective in bringing down global greenhouse gas emissions.

To make the Paris Agreement a real-world success story we need more than a historic political agreement, we need practical climate action to “decouple GDP from GHG” – or economic growth from greenhouse gases – as UN climate chief Christiana Figurers put it yesterday (11 April) during a lecture at Climate-KIC partner the Grantham Institute.

We need a wide range of breakthrough innovations to transform how we live, what we consume, and how we do business while creating new economic growth and jobs. We need to change the system, and we need to do it everywhere on the planet.

Here are four ways Marrakesh is going to help achieve that:

1. Going From National to Global Action Plans

In the run up to Paris, countries submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Now, they are preparing their first climate action plans (NDCs) – dropping the ‘Intended’ from the title – which will be updated every five years and should represent an increase in ambition. This is the often cited ‘ratcheting’ mechanism built into the Paris Agreement.

In Marrakesh, countries will hope to agree on how the stock-taking exercise should work every five years, and how they can make sure it will indeed ratchet up the level of ambition around the world.

The action plans outline the post-2020 climate actions of each country and contain details such as emission-reduction targets and how governments plan to make those happen.

A range of policies, including those addressing the aviation and maritime sectors (which are missing from the Paris Agreement), need to be drawn up and implemented to create what is often called the “enabling environment” for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

2. Making Measuring Progress Transparent

Perhaps even more important, are the ways we monitor and verify the amounts of carbon emission reductions reported by countries.

There is currently no common methodology to monitor the national commitments, which hinders the transparency of the Paris Agreement’s implementation.

Information matters. If countries understand their emission profile they can target the most problematic areas first. Then, comparability of national action plans open the door to understanding about which policies work best and why, which will lead to the exchange of best practices – resulting in more efficient action globally.

The EU is a strong proponent of such a common approach. This year we expect significant progress on working out the details of a harmonised verification process. Marrakesh will be a key milestone to ensure we understand our progress towards the common goal of curbing climate change.

3. Involving The Business Sector

The development of low-carbon technologies, and making better use of existing ones by making them accessible to all, is crucial in the fight against climate change.

In Paris, we’ve seen the world’s billionaires making a stand and the Paris Agreement itself has recognised this too: now is the time to invest.

Strengthening technology cooperation between countries will promote economic growth and sustainable development. There have been international efforts in this direction already, such as the UNFCCC’s Technology Mechanism and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTC-N), but it desperately needs scaling up.

Innovative, green technology in all sectors of industry should also make their way to the national economies of developing countries – generating higher rates of productivity, and growth throughout the whole value chain.

The world needs to step up efficient match-making between the technology needs of countries and the solutions available around the world. What’s absolutely crucial is that we involve the business sector in this, which ultimately produces the goods and technologies we use.

Marrakesh should bring clarity to how this process of global technology transfer will be organised from now on.

4. Empowering Developing Countries

Last, but not least it is fundamental that all countries can develop efficient climate change policies, and have the means to implement them.

You’ll hear the term “capacity building” a lot in this context.

There are huge differences between developing, emerging and developed countries. Capacity building aims to ensure that governments and civil servants in all countries have the skills and knowledge to implement the Paris Agreement through national policies.

The Paris Agreement makes provisions to support this, with the details to be worked out this year. The EU has made this action a priority in its post-COP21 assessment and a number of other initiatives deliver important programmes to support this worldwide.

Already, the UN’s CTC-N has been supporting developing countries with the development of specific climate policy programmes, but there is a consensus that this needs to be scaled up massively.

But the public sector by itself, no matter how smart their policies are, will not be enough to make the transition to the zero-carbon economy.

Entrepreneurial education, support for an emerging start-up culture and the encouragement of cross-sector action will empower people who want to take action and make a difference. This is something that international innovation networks and partnerships like Climate-KIC already do on a daily basis.

In Marrakesh, a lot of time will be spent on trying to broaden the definition of capacity building to make sure everyone can act on climate change, no matter where they are.

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