22 Nov 2016

COP22: Developing nations lead way in the fight against climate change

Blue Jay © Wikicommons
By Alex Dale

It's been a little under a month since the Paris Agreement – a historic international agreement between countries to battle climate change – became legally-binding, three whole years ahead of schedule.


But despite the unprecedented speed and urgency with which the Paris Agreement has been ratified (11 more governments, including Australia, Japan and the UK, ratified the agreement over the past two weeks, taking the running total to 112 Parties), the looming threat of climate change should still have the world's governments feeling a little hot under the collar.


This is because the planet is giving us all a deadline that can't be pushed back or negotiated. Rising temperatures mean we are already edging perilously close to the 1.5˚C global increase on pre-industrial levels. Already we are seeing pervasive impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem services and communities worldwide, and it is clear that with the Paris Agreement ratified, the pressure is now on to turn that passion and promise into real action.


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And real action was the theme at COP 22 (the 22nd Conference of the Parties under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), the first COP since the 2015 adoption of the Paris Agreement. COP22, which took place in Marrakesh, Morocco between 7-18th November, promised to be a ‘COP of action’, building on the Paris Agreement's momentum by laying out the rules, guidance and technicalities needed to implement the treaty's ambitious, globe-spanning aims.


The job here in Marrakesh was to get down to the nitty gritty and develop the rulebook to ensure effective implementation of the agreement” says Edward Perry, Global Climate Change Policy Coordinator, BirdLife International. “While there was some good progress in areas, much more work will be needed next year if we are to capitalise on the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement.”


One area where further progress will be needed is climate finance: “Finance continues to be a stumbling block in the negotiations, with some developed countries shirking their responsibilities”, said Pepe Clarke, Head of Policy at BirdLife International. “For the Paris agreement to work, rich countries will need to give developing countries the money they need to protect their vulnerable communities and ecosystems.”


In one of the main positives to come from summit in Marrakesh, 43 of the developing nations most threatened by climate change – who together form the Climate Vulnerable Forum – committed to transitioning to 100% Renewable Energy. And this despite being among the most vulnerable nations on Earth who have contributed the least to climate change. We need to see more of this strong leadership going forward if we are to protect vulnerable communities and nature from catastrophic climate change.


While the world continues to make progress in addressing climate change, current efforts are not sufficient. “While we welcome the continued progress and constructive spirit of the climate negotiations, it is important to remember that our current trajectory is taking us towards catastrophic climate change” says Perry. “To hold global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, governments must do much more to keep fossil fuels in the ground, to protect our forests and oceans and to restore our degraded lands. And they must do it now. Delaying action is not an option.”


The climate talks in Marrakesh demonstrated that governments are committed to implement the Paris Agreement despite of any political shocks or uncertainties”, says Melanie Heath, Director of Science and Policy at BirdLife International, “The powerful momentum to implement the Agreement, increase ambition and address climate change cannot be stopped”.