COP22: What actually happened?

The UN hosts yearly summits tackling the ever-critical issue of climate change, and has done so since 1995. It’s how they get countries – both big and small – to negotiate policies that will benefit their nation, as well as their global neighbours. The conference of parties, or ‘COP’ as it is often called, marked its 22nd year in Marrakech last month, whilst hosting COP22 at the same place between the 7th-18th November.

The conference had a significant year to live up to, with COP21 in Paris last year leading to the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which will tackle greenhouse gases head-on from 2020. However, this year, water was high on the agenda; with water scarcity, cleanliness and sustainability acting as focal issues.

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But in the midst of this 11-day conference, attended by almost 200 countries, what actually happened? Here’s a summary in three quick points.

  1. Trump became President-elect, and nations defended the Paris Agreement

The US election on 8th November loomed over the conference, with nations waiting nervously to find out the final verdict of the American public. Trump made it clear that he would “cancel” the Paris Agreement within 100 days of taking office, as well as stop all US payments towards global warming programmes lead by the UN. But the attendees were aware that Trump’s presidency may happen, and could have an impact on their plans. Acknowledging his intentions, nations swiftly ratified the Paris Agreement in international law on November 4th, four days before the election. As a result, if Trump wants to back out of the agreement, it will take him four years to do so. Nations stood strong against the threat of Trump, not letting his election distract them from making key decisions.

  1. Powerful nations came together to devise a long-term plan (without any greenhouse gases)

At the heart of sustainability comes long-term planning, and that is exactly what was done by the 22 countries, 15 cities and 200 businesses that joined the ‘2050 Pathways Platform’. Through sharing their experiences, finances and knowledge, they intend to work towards zero-greenhouse gas net emissions and implement deep decarbonisation strategies. This means that they will be working as a collective unit over the next few decades, with countries such as Brazil, Japan and Nigeria already stating their commitment.

30641918042_e506e653d2_bSource | Signage for the climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco
  1. The poorest countries prioritised renewables

‘The Marrakech Vision’ was the name given to the plan to get many of the world’s poorest countries transitioning to energy completely from renewables. 47 nations, including Burkina Faso, Malawi and Bangladesh, agreed to reduce their carbon emissions by 2020, with the ultimate aim of being completely green by 2030 to 2050. Interestingly, they challenged richer nations – with more finances and resources – to do the same.

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Significant funds were also discussed throughout the summit, and many financial pledges were made, including $1.5bn from the World Bank’s climate finances to go to the Middle East and North Africa – twice what the region was previously promised. But the question remains of whether all this additional money will make a real difference. Whether the UN’s climate plans continue to go ahead successfully once the Trump administration assumes power remains a key question. It’s an interesting time for global politics, and right now, the future of climate change plans seem both ambitious and uncertain.

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