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Issues at stake at COP 22

Issues at stake at COP 22
Almost a year after the signing of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, the parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference began their annual Conference of Parties (COP) Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco from November 7. The COP22 meeting, slated to go on from November 7-18, 2016 has been deemed an ‘Action COP’ for implementation of the Paris Agreement and formulation of the rule book of several components of the agreement for which only basic guidance and clauses are in place.

The agreement entered into force on November 4, much earlier than the initially expected 2020 timeline for entry into force. While negotiations regarding the rule book of the Paris Agreement are unlikely to be finalised this year, they are scheduled to happen by 2018 when more countries would have ratified the agreement and would be party to the decision-making process in the making of the rulebook. However, the COP summit in Marrakech (also Marrakesh) may be crucial for negotiations on some long-standing issues at the UNFCCC, which may define the course of future negotiations. Deliberations on standout issues of the Paris Agreement are likely to be but a starting point for future implementations of the agreement.

Below are some key areas, especially pertinent to India and other developing nations, which are likely to feature prominently in this year’s summit:

Agriculture

The topic of agriculture has mostly been skirted so far by the UNFCCC and is not even mentioned explicitly in the Paris agreement. But agriculture is one of those key nodes in the climate change equation that cannot be ignored for long. As global population expands, there is a need for expansion of agriculture as well, but at the same time agriculture contributes about 15 percent of total emissions which go up to 30 percent when emissions from forestry and other land use changes are taken into account. One issue of contention between the developed and developing countries is to treat mitigation of climate change impacts on agriculture as an issue that brings “co-benefit” to both sets of nations. Another big talking point regarding agriculture will be international cooperation regarding finance and technology transfers. Small countries such as Bangladesh have asked for international support to reduce emissions from agriculture beyond five percent. But international funding for adaptation and mitigation in the agricultural sector has been a trickle so far. The GCF and ODA have facilitated some international funding of climate-smart and climate-resilient agriculture projects. INDCs offer a starting point in climate negotiations on agriculture, but action will have to be landscape or region-specific. In Morocco, it is likely that parties start talking about common standards that are needed to implement strategies and improve monitoring. Recently, 27 African countries signed an initiative named Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) Marrakech declaration, whereby they have agreed to place agriculture at the heart of climate negotiations during the COP22.
 
Adaptation (Article 7 of Paris Agreement)

The Paris Agreement, for the first time, put mitigation and adaptation to climate change on equal footing. Many of the current Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), mainly of developing countries, have a specific adaptation component in them. Paris Agreement encourages parties to periodically submit an “adaptation communication” reporting on their adaptation efforts and needs and establishes a “global goal on adaptation” but does not define what it is actually.
 The agreement also provides for enhanced adaptation support for developing countries, and says their adaptation efforts “shall be recognised.” But while the agreement underlines commitments, a coherent plan of action is lacking. The adaptation fund, which was formed in 2001, has lately suffered from the dipping carbon prices and has depended mostly on donations from countries and private entities. The UNEP’s 2016 Adaptation Finance Gap Report projects that, by 2030, adapting to climate impacts would cost between $140 and $300 billion per year. Therefore, the current level of adaptation finance currently projected at $20 billion by 2020 has to be scaled up many folds.

Decisions also have to be made and adopted on following points:

1. Modalities for recognising developing countries’ adaptation efforts
2. Methodologies for assessing adaptation needs
3. Methodologies for reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation and support
Therefore, Marrakech provides an opportunity to start working on coherent strategies to mobilise finance and develop standards to implement interventions and monitor progress.
 
Loss & Damage (Article 8 of Paris Agreement)

Climate-related impacts are increasing in severity and developing countries bear the maximum brunt of these impacts. It has taken almost two decades in climate negotiations for loss and damage to be treated as an issue needed to be addressed. The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) was established in 2013 with a view to:

1. Enhance knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address L&D
2. Strengthen dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders
3. Increase action and support, including finance, technology and capacity-building

The Article 8 of the Paris Agreement provides a separate section on loss and damage and provides a legal basis for anchoring the Warsaw International Mechanism to the Agreement, although without the element of liability and compensation which were unacceptable to developed nations. It also clarifies that action on loss and damage shall be cooperative and facilitative and shall be undertaken in coordination with able bodies inside and outside of the UNFCCC structure. Further, it outlines possible fields of cooperation in a non-exhaustive list. The recognised areas of cooperation under Article 8, Para 4 are as follows:

1. Early warning systems
2. Emergency preparedness
3. Slow-onset events
4. Events that may involve irreversible and permanent loss and damage
5. Comprehensive risk assessment and management
6. Risk-insurance facilities, climate-risk pooling and other insurance solutions
7. Non-economic losses
8. Resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems

At Marrakech, there will be a review of the loss and damage mechanism, including its structure, mandate and effectiveness with a view to adopting an appropriate decision on the outcome of this review. The review of the two-year work plan of the Executive Committee (Excom), which carries out the functions of WIM, will also take place and a five-year action plan be devised.

(The views expressed are strictly those of Down to Earth.)
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