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Daily updates from COP22

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Welcome to our daily briefing from COP22.

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Saturday 19 November

One last time, a warm hello from Marrakesh!

Despite being a relatively calm COP, this didn’t stop it from carrying on late until the night. With some Moroccan mint tea, we waited till the very end when at 2.47 AM this Saturday morning, COP22 was officially closed.

Right after the end of the negotiations, we asked some Green voices about their evaluation and conclusions: Carole Dieschbourg, Luxembourg Minister of Environment; Evelyne Huytebroeck and Oras Tynkkynen, EGP Committee members, as well as Ronan Dantec from the French Greens, who is Chair of the Climate Negotiation Group of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). Watch it here:

So, what are the main outcomes and lessons learned here in Marrakesh? We can divide the answer in two, in a technical and an “atmospheric” one.

Let’s start with the latter: It’s really a great success – and negotiators clapped themselves on the shoulders for this all the time, rightfully so – that the commitment to the Paris goals was reconfirmed powerfully. It was not even questioned and not a single country – neither openly or behind the scenes – indicated that they might reconsider at some point. That’s not self-understanding at all, especially after the result of the US Presidential election reached the participants on the morning of the conference’s third day. But the answer to this was a united one, not leaving much space for misunderstanding: If the United States pull out of Paris, we will not, but instead move on.

Of course, that’s not only a matter of moral insight, but more and more countries realize the enormous opportunities of a shift towards a Green economy and don’t want to fall back. In many areas of the world, the real economy already moves faster than politics when it comes to transforming towards a low-carbon society. And even though this is still happening at a pace that is way too slow, the dynamics seem unstoppable.

Furthermore, several unilateral and multilateral initiatives that indeed go considerably beyond of what has been agreed on before, even brought some euphoria to this conference – countries do take leadership, don’t settle with the minimum compromise and try to push others forward with them. It was especially the 48 states grouped together in the “Climate Vulnerable Forum” announcing that they will phase out of all fossil fuels until 2050 that was celebrated during the last day of this conference. These countries are developing ones and, as their name says, especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It’s good to see that they took leadership when the developed countries hardly did before and during this conference. Do we see a shift in leadership towards countries smaller in size and power, but bigger in ambition? That’s definitely something to follow in the upcoming time.

And also at the conference itself, several initiatives have been launched, such as the 2050 pathways platform, which seeks to support countries in developing long-term ways to a zero greenhouse gas pathway, initiated mainly by France. For those interested, you can find a comprehensive overview of the initiatives launched or revised to be more ambitious at COP22 here. Summing this conference up, the Marrakesh Action Proclamation sees an “irreversible momentum on climate” created here at COP22. Not everyone in the halls shared that opinion, but even though the declaration has no legal value, it’s indeed a very important political signal.

Despite all this, it is hard to say that this conference ended with a big “Yeeeeah!!!”. From midnight on, more and more people just left the plenary – not only observers, but high-level officials didn’t quite care to stay until the end of this Conference. We spotted EU Commissioner Miguel Cañete and German Climate minister Barbara Hendricks sneaking out to their riad. Understandably so: The closing plenary was dominated by tiring statements or strange disputes between Colombia, Brazil and India that not even COP veteran experts quite understood.

After a historic COP21, this little sobering one could have been expected before, although several participants stated that the Moroccan Presidency did indeed lower the concrete goals for this conference so much, that reaching the goals can hardly be called a success.

And with this, some of the technicalities that underline this point: As said in previous newsletters, the negotiations on revised national contributions in line with the Paris Agreement hardly moved forward. Everyone talks about 2018, but waiting 2 years might not be the best idea – and even if: 2018 needs to be prepared. However, some countries still only want to have a “progress report” next year instead of an actual step forward on the way of the Facilitative Dialogue towards 2018. Of course, there might be good reasons why NDCs can’t be aligned to the 1,5 degree goal immediately, but as John Kerry quoted Winston Churchill in his speech: “It’s not always enough that we do our best, sometimes we have to do what is required”. And right now, we are steering towards a world with 3 degrees global warming with the North Pole being 20 degrees Celsius warmer than normal.

Second: As you could read yesterday, climate finance was the real contentious issue towards the end of the conference. But what could have brought some new dynamics to climate negotiations ended pretty unspectacular after all: The Adaptation Fund now serves the Paris Agreement (basically meaning it is part of it because otherwise it would have died in 2020), which is excellent, but is nothing unexpected. Second, the developed countries committed to doubling the funding towards the long-term 100 Billion Roadmap, which they offered already pretty early. Developing countries demanded to quadruple it, but at the end they did not even meet in the middle. And that’s not enough, because doubling means a raise from 10 to 20 billion – resulting in 20% of the 100 billion aimed for. Not really a breakthrough.

Third, there have been some advancements achieved concerning the rulebook of the Paris Agreement, but the bulk of it was postponed and hard work remains to be done to bring it over the finish line.

And of course, there has also been quiet some hypocrisy at this conference, just to give you one example: The G7 plus Australia, celebrating them for their climate action in Marrakech, subsidize fossil fuel companies with almost 20 times the amount of money that they provide for supporting adaptation in developing countries.

So, the workload for the upcoming COPs has not really been lowered. The emission targets set until now are by far not ambitious enough and foremost the developed countries must considerably raise their targets. This is also true for the issue of climate financing. Participants hope for an ambitious and committed COP presidency of Fiji in 2017, hosting COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

By the way: Poland offered to host the decisive COP24 in 2018 – to put it carefully, not everyone thinks that this is the right signal. And even though in two years an Eastern European country was supposed to host the COP, Canada also openly offered to do so, being supported by quite some countries behind the scenes. Not only to avoid Poland, but also with the good argument that otherwise four out of six COPs between 2013 and 2018 would have been hosted in EU countries.

That’s not only a matter of regional balance, but it also doesn’t reflect the fact that the EU member states are currently not the most progressive ones when it comes to climate action. Perhaps the EU should first raise its ambitions before raising its hand for organizing COPs.

This is what we as European Greens will continue to fight for, also continuing with our efforts regarding the divestment from fossil fuels – it‘s been very inspiring to see many fossil free activists campaigning here in Marrakesh! We hope that we could provide you with some good insight and analysis from these 2016 COP negotiations – and we hope to welcome you again next year. Even though we would have somehow welcomed Fiji to organize the COP itself, we are of course also happy to just take a quick train from Brussels to Bonn and report to you from there.

À bientôt!

Friday 18 November

Bonjour de Marrakech!

It’s the last day of this COP 22, at least officially. It’s not expected that the Conference will be prolonged to Saturday, but this night will most likely be a long one. So, the Presidency will definitely make sure that there is enough coffee provided for negotiators and observers today.

One of them who has followed many COPs already is Lutz Weischer, Team Leader International Climate Policy with Germanwatch, one of the leading NGOs when it comes to climate change and environment, especially concerning the Global South. We talked to him about the decisive points still at stake on this last day of the Conference:

So, it’s all about the money? Well, it’s a rather safe bet to say that climate finance will dominate the negotiations of this day and night, next to the question of a raise in national ambition towards bringing down emissions. Much was talked yesterday about the release of 2050 climate action plans by the United States, Canada and Mexico – it’s a powerful signal that these important countries show concrete action, even though it can still be criticised that the plans are not ambitious enough.

Furthermore, there has been some good news as projects like the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative have been confirmed on a ministerial level to being continued and intensified. Also, more countries joined coalitions like the International Solar Alliance, which was initiated by India last year.

So, even though there is a lot left to negotiate today, we see that things are indeed moving on different levels. And being here at the COP venue, it’s very inspiring to see, hear and speak to so many people dedicated to fight climate change - untiring, powerful and creative.

Next to influencing the negotiations, one of their main targets is the fossil fuel industry, for obvious reasons. Nonetheless, these industries are still part of the COP negotiations, being able to lobby and network – that’s why you hear the slogan “Kick polluters out” pretty often here in Marrakesh. We talked about this with Max Andersson, a Green Member of the European Parliament from Sweden - you can watch his statement on the topic here. Our youth organisation FYEG also sent out a strong message yesterday to stop greenwashing by polluters that are sponsoring or exhibiting at this COP.

So, as always, this COP is not only about figures and numbers, but also about atmosphere. After a heavy bump following Donald Trump’s election, we asked Zakia Khattabi, Chair of the Wallonian Green Party Ecolo, about the current state of play:

Closing today’s report is a side note on a more technical level, for those ones interested: the discussions on whether so-called “negative emission technologies” are inevitably needed to reach the 1.5 degree goal have notably intensified during this COP. This term refers to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere (in comparison to the reduction of emissions), e.g. by bio energy with carbon capture and storage or, less fancily, by reforestation or direct air removal.

Almost all climate NGOs are still heavily opposed as this might be used as an excuse to emit more greenhouse gases instead of forcefully pushing renewable energies or phasing out fossil fuel subsidies – and all this without full certainty that these measures will even work out as they are supposed to. Furthermore, most proposals can have severe side effects, such as a high demand in water and land, creating competition for the production of food. However, others begin to speak louder that there simply does not exist a realistic scenario anymore under which an effective limit of global warming is possible without negative emission technologies. This question will not be decided today, but be prepared that this debate is likely to heat up in the nearer future.

The issues that are to be decided today will be part of tomorrow’s briefing, so stay tuned as this COP reaches the finish line!

Thursday 17 November

Good morning, Europe!

Unfortunately, the news we have for you today is not that good: Because, as COP22 should be about the “How” after Paris decided on the “What”, this question of “How?” is far from being answered yet.

After a promising beginning of the high-level talks with affirmations from all sides on how important more action is, including a powerful speech of the the US still-Secretary of State John Kerry, until today not much of what should be the substantial progress of this Conference became more concrete. The disappointing phrase of a possible “COP of broken promises” could already be heard here and there when talking to those directly involved in the negotiations. It’s not too late yet, as it is not unusual that breakthroughs are not achieved before the very end of the talks. But a lot still needs to happen here to call this a successful COP.

Some examples? Here you go:

  • Since yesterday, a first draft of the final COP declaration has been circulating among delegates – but it stays very abstract and lacks the explicit call on more ambitious climate targets or the encouragement of Parties to raise their Nationally Determined Contributions. Until now, it’s all but a powerful, strong signal for urgent action.
  • When it comes to money, the developed countries refuse to commit to a credible roadmap on climate financing. But the goals set regarding mitigation (i.e. reducing emissions) and adaptation (i.e. adapting to climate change) need to reflect in finance capacity building and technological support if they are to be taken seriously. Especially the adaptation side lacks a lot of financial means – without a commitment to considerably raise this engagement, this COP can hardly be called a progress.
  • The so called pre-2020 action still cannot be seen as near to sufficient. As the name suggests, it describes the immediate measures to be taken, with the Paris Agreement only referring to contributions from 2020 on – but it’s no option to wait for four years until Parties align their policies to the 1.5 degree goal. However, Germany, for example, just announced that they will not even meet their targets already set for 2020. 

Christiane Brunner, a Member of Parliament for the Austrian Greens and spokesperson for environment, climate and energy, discussed with us about the lacking raise of ambition:

One reason for the non-progress at this COP so far may well be the absence of a leading Party – many talk about the almost tangible power vacuum at this COP, having, firstly, a rather weak Presidency that is more in the mindset of celebrating prior successes rather than organizing advancements or dealing with Trump’s success; secondly, the US is mostly unable to act, for obvious reasons; and thirdly (yes, you might already suspect) an EU that still prefers to keep staying outside the core playing field.

The main cause for the latter are apparently mainly the internal differences among Member States, following the motto: We can either take the lead or stay together as 28, but not both at the same time. As before, Poland especially is expected to hit the brakes again inside the EU delegation. But apart from exceptions like Sweden, who push hard for raising ambitions, advancing the Paris rulebook or supporting adaptation finance, most other EU countries stay rather silent – including Germany, who celebrates itself so much for their 2050 plan (which, by the way, is still by far not enough to reach the country’s share for the 1.5 degree goal), that they seem to think their job is done, rather than taking a lead inside the EU now.

Yesterday showed precisely what EU climate leadership does NOT look like: copies of the EU Commission’s draft on a “Winter Package” concerning renewable energy legislation have been leaked and in these, the proposed target of renewables is an increase of only 7 percentage points over ten years – from 20% 2020 to 27% in 2030. If all Parties proceeded at this speed, 1.5 degrees will be history very soon already. That’s why the European Union was awarded the “Fossil of the Day” award by the Climate Action Network International, rightfully so.

Talking about fossils: as you are likely to know, the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves have to be kept in the ground if we want to effectively limit global warming. 350.org is the leading NGO when it comes to grassroots climate action, especially concerning the movement for divestment from fossil fuels. On Monday, they handed over a message co-signed by almost 400 civil society organisations to immediately freeze new fossil fuel developments. We talked with Nicolas Haeringer who represents 350.org at the COP about this initiative and about the importance of the movement for climate negotiations:

To sum up today’s report: if the COP is not to end with nice but meaningless declarations, significant progress is still necessary.

But do not become depressed with this day - there is good reason to believe that at least some significant steps will be taken as the urgency of concrete action is very present during all negotiation talks, and leaving Marrakesh as we came would be hard to explain for many Parties. Some say it might already be seen as a success that no country so far has dropped its commitment to the Paris Agreement in the face of a US President Trump. However, this might be a diplomatic success, but it does not help to halt global warming. And that’s why we hope to bring you some better news tomorrow!

Wednesday 16 November

Hello again from COP22! Or should we say: CMA1? This abbreviation might not be known to many yet, but you should get used to it - “CMA” stands for the “Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement”. Any clearer? Well, it’s the technical term for the meetings under last year’s historic Paris Climate Agreement that just entered into force. 

And it was yesterday that this body started working for the first time - Ban Ki-Moon as well as many heads of states and ministers arrived and the high-level talks to negotiate the concrete “rulebook” of the Paris Climate Agreement began. The decisive part of this COP has started. And still, whether you like it or not, one of the number one topics in the conference halls is: Donald Trump. It is widely discussed that the UN Secretary General directly addressed him yesterday, expecting that “He will really hear and understand the severity and urgency of addressing climate change," and adding "As president of the United States, I hope he understands this, listens, and evaluates his campaign remarks." 

Mr. Ban scratched the border of diplomatic language, even trespassed it – which might have to do with the fact that his term ends very soon, but most likely he still would not have done so had he no powerful backing. He apparently does, as insiders report that behind closed doors, most countries, including the ones with highest emissions, keep reassuring that they will not pull out of the Paris Treaty, no matter what a President Trump will do. You never know how credible that is, but it appears that Mr. Ban’s remarks are part of a strategy with the aim of sending immediate strong signals that Mr. Trump would be internationally isolated when questioning the US commitments to fighting climate change. 

The question is not so much what he will do at home, because the shift from fossil energies to renewables in the US is already mainly market-driven, not state-driven. However, a big concern remains to be the US contribution to the Green Climate Fund – from 3 billion US dollars promised, so far the US have only transferred 500 million. Many people at the COP fear that Trump will refrain from transferring the rest, which would be a major setback to this important instrument providing capital to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

Today, it is only speculation about what Trump will do exactly. But what seems clear is that the power axis of China and the US which dominated recent climate negotiations might well be falling apart. Against this background, it is even more important that the European Union becomes a leading force in international climate negotiations again, as many NGOs stress here, in Marrakesh! Germany’s agreement on a concrete climate action plan for the time until 2050 serves to many as a good first step and an example on how EU member countries should proceed swiftly.

But the first milestones that need to be targeted are much closer. One of the most important ones is the so called “2018 Facilitative Dialogue”. What’s that? Well, in a nutshell: in 2018, all Parties are supposed to take stock of their efforts and review the progress made towards the Paris Agreement goals. And we already know today that ambitions need to be higher: in comparison to the emission goals set before the Paris Agreement, Parties will have to scale up their so called “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) by around 25%. We asked Claude Turmes, Green MEP from Luxemburg and leader of the Greens/EFA delegation to the COP, about the Dialogue, why it is important, and how the state of play is – see the interview here:

What else to report today?

At a press conference, a Greenpeace representative outlined three criteria for assessing whether this COP will be a success or not: first, agreeing on a clear process to have the rulebook done by 2018 while avoiding loopholes; second, substantially raising the ambition towards the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue; and third, achieving serious commitments by Parties to raise their national emission reduction targets.

Today at 11:30, the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament will co-host an event together with 350.org, PUSH Sweden and others on “Keep it in the Ground: The Global Civil Society and Political Movement to End Fossil Fuel Extraction”. Find all information and the possibility to follow via livestream here.

For the occasion of COP 22, the Green European Journal has published an article, co-authored by our Campaign Manager, on the question of “The Divestment Movement: A Climate Policy Game Changer?” You can read the article here.

That’s it for today. We’ll be back in your mailbox tomorrow!

Tuesday 15 November

Hello from Marrakesh!

And welcome to our daily mailing from COP 22, hosted by Morocco. From today on, we will report for you every day during this second week of the conference, with background informations, exclusive interviews and some personal observations about what's going on in, around, and during the COP. We’re happy to have you as a reader! Please find a welcome message by our Co-Chair Reinhard Bütikofer below:

Around 30,000 participants from all around the world are in Marrakech to negotiate, lobby, observe, protest and network. Several dozens of them are European Greens, who are here to represent their local council, parliament or national party – we’ll talk to several of them so that you can participate in their insights and observations too!

Not even two weeks ago, on November 4th, the Paris Climate Agreement that was achieved less than a year ago at the COP 21, entered into force. What a breakthrough, after the long struggle to negotiate this treaty! But now, this Agreement has to be filled with life – and that’s what is supposed to be happening at this COP. What does that mean? Well, have you heard of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, the 100-billion-dollar roadmap, the debate over loss and damage? Some of you will have, others will have not.

These instruments are just 3 examples of what needs to be negotiated in order to start turning the Paris goals into concrete action. Because this Agreement is clear in goals, but not clear in instruments. The negotiations on the rules and institutional arrangements needed to implement the agreement have now started in Marrakesh. That’s why this is often called a “technical” COP – which is probably true, but that does not make it less important, because a treaty alone does not change the world. So these negotiations will start deciding how the actual house looks like after building the scaffolding. Some advancements have been made during last week already, but from today on, many ministers will be in Marrakesh, hopefully further pushing the negotiations forward. We would like to bring them close to you and make them understandable during this second and decisive week of COP 22.

We, as European Greens, fight for a swift, consequent and fair implementation of the important goals set out in the Paris agreement – that’s why on Sunday we participated in the march for climate justice, of which you can see some pictures here below.

Our motto for this COP is: “Turn signatures into action – now!” This is because we have no time to lose: a new study by a group of environmental NGOs, published in September 2016, calculated that the potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal only in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would already take us beyond 2 degrees Celsius of global warming (http://bit.ly/2cToMya). This is not to mention the high amount of fields and mines that are being planned to open in the next years or even decades.

These new numbers underline the necessity of fighting for a strong acceleration of the phase-out of fossil fuels, as this happens at a considerably much too slow rate today. And this is why through our #FossilFree2016 campaign we call for divestment from fossil fuels by public and private institutions. “Divestment” is one more of these terms that might need explanation – that’s why we produced an animation video to do just that. Please watch below:

 

On this same topic, we will today host a workshop at the AlterCOP of the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG). We will broadcast live on our Facebook event page, beginning at 4 PM CET.

That’s it for today – we send you all the best wishes from Marrakesh and hope that we will do a good job in keeping you posted! For any comment or questions, please don’t hesitate to write to: jakob.ache@europeangreens.eu

See you tomorrow!


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