Paris Agreement comes into force – what now in Marrakech?

Plenary session of COP21 in Paris, 12 December 2015, [COP PARIS / Flickr]

Last week, vision turned into reality as the Paris Agreement officially came into force, ushering a new era of climate action. As COP22 starts today, EURACTIV’s partner asks, what does this actually mean for the global green economy?

Since the ground-breaking deal was penned in Paris at COP21 in December last year, global climate chiefs have remained optimistic that the treaty would come into force, with 2018 mooted as a likely timeframe.

The fact that more than 55 countries representing more than 55% of global emissions ratified the deal in early October this year was no small feat. It had taken almost two decades to put an official climate deal on the table; it took less than a year for that deal to come into force.

The hunger and ambitions of the countries that have ratified – which includes the US, China and the European Union – itself reflects the pace of change.

“Humanity will look back on 4 November 2016 as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster and set off with determination towards a sustainable future,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said.

COP22: EU climate financing still only theoretical

Less than a month before the start of the COP22 climate summit in Marrakech, EU finance ministers have pledged more funding to tackle global warming. But the exact terms of this promise are yet to be defined. EURACTIV France reports.

“The Agreement is undoubtedly a turning point in the history of common human endeavour, capturing the combined political, economic and social will of governments, cities, regions, citizens, business and investors to overcome the existential threat of unchecked climate change. Its early entry into force is a clear political signal that all the nations of the world are devoted to decisive global action on climate change.”

So, now that the Paris Agreement has come into force, what can we expect to see next? In the immediate aftermath of the agreement’s ratification, it seems that not much is likely to change. The COP22 event in Marrakech will likely focus on the implementation of the deal, with various sectors and issues such as deforestation all up for discussion.

So far, 97 of the 197 parties that signed the agreement have ratified. Couple this with the recent UN report that revealed current Paris commitments are likely to place the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.9-3.4 degrees this century, it is evident that more urgency is needed.

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We do know that the governing body of the Paris Agreement, the CMA, will host its first meeting on 15 November, where it is expected that negotiators will agree in adjourning further meetings – possibly until 2018 – so that officials can create rules that strengthen the implementation of the agreement.

This essentially throws a lifeline to the likes of the UK, which will still have to ratify independently as well as other EU countries. In fact, only seven EU countries representing 5% of global emissions have completed their domestic processes in ratifying.

If the CMA – which consists of nations that have ratified the deal – does agree to “suspend” negotiations, then countries that signed the Agreement will have until the mooted 2018 horizon to ratify and place themselves at the table for future negotiations.

The Marrakech talks will also aim to outline the ratchet mechanisms that allow nations to raise ambitions – ideally in line with the 1.5C pathway – over time. A practice one has been scheduled for 2018 and the first official mechanism will take place in 2023.

With UK Prime Minister Theresa May pledging to ratify the deal before the end of the year, it appears that the UK will soon be able to negotiate on these ratcheting mechanisms, as well as discussing the roadmap for rich countries to deliver $100 billion in climate mitigation to developing countries. COP22 is expected to focus heavily on finance.

UK government defeated in Article 50 court case

The UK’s High Court has ruled against Theresa May’s government on whether parliamentary approval is needed to trigger Article 50, in a decision that could have devastating consequences for the prime minister’s Brexit plans.

Much is still up in the air in regards to what Brexit means for the UK’s climate commitments. When signing the agreement as part of the bloc, the UK agreed to binding target of at least a 40% domestic reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.

Since the signing ceremony in New York, the British government approved the Fifth Carbon Budget proposals by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for UK emissions to be 57% lower between the period of 2028 and 2032, compared with 1990 levels.

When Article 50 is triggered, it seems that not only will the UK be at the table for negotiations, but will also be shooting for an ambitious emissions reduction target. The nation’s ability to meet this target is another matter.

Some time at COP22 will likely be given to embedding the recent Kigali deal to phase-out hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). The landmark – albeit somewhat questionable – aviation deal was also established outside of the Paris Agreement framework. Nations will likely question how these targets can be reached in harmony with the well below two degrees target of the Paris deal.

HFC deal big step in fighting climate change

They went to Kigali, Rwanda, to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and take 0.5C out of future global warming, and the 170 countries that successfully negotiated an amendment to the Montreal protocol treaty agreed to get rid of 90% of them. Not bad for four days and three long nights of hard work.

During the early stages of COP22, eyes will undoubtedly glance away from the Moroccan capital towards the US. On 8 November, the nation will elect either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as its next president.

Trump has made no secret of his desire to cancel the Paris Agreement, having previously claimed that climate change was a “hoax”. The US ratified the deal on a “historic day” alongside China, as the world’s largest two emitters agreed to lead the way in the low-carbon transition.

The ratification of the treaty means that the US cannot leave the Paris Agreement for another four years – nations cannot signal a withdrawal process until three years into the deal and the actual removal process takes 12 months.

However, a Trump victory would cast doubt over American will to meet global climate goals. The Republican candidate has already expressed his desire to ensure that coal would “last a thousand years” in his US. Fortunately, the coal is industry is realising the need to transition to a low-carbon economy.

Paris Agreement: Saving face and negating Trump

The Paris Agreement has to come into force as soon as possible in order for the EU to maintain its tag as a climate policy trailblazer and to counter the effects of a possible Trump presidency. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.


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