The key aim of COP22, which took place in Marrakech last year, was to begin the process of taking the Paris Agreement and using it to make an action plan for countries to go forward with. The expected outcome was that the words spoken and the promises made in the Paris Agreement would be turned into palpable, constructive actions.
However, on the Wednesday, only the third day of the conference, Donald Trump was announced as the president-elect of the USA. If Trump, who infamously tweeted in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”, was to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement as he promised, much of the progress made at COP22 might be rendered futile.
On August 4th this year, the US State Department released a statement confirming that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The Department also contacted the UN head office, informing them that the US intends to leave the accord as soon as possible.
However, under the terms of the Paris Agreement, no country was permitted to back out of the agreement until 4th November 2020 – which, somewhat promisingly, will be one day after the next US presidential election. The US intends to respect this agreement: the State Department released a statement confirming that “The United States will continue to participate in international climate-change negotiations and meetings, including the 23rd Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to protect U.S. interests and ensure all future policy options remain open to the administration.” In September 2017, the European Union climate commissioner Miguel Cañete reported that Trump officials had said they would not pull out of the Paris Agreement, and were offering to reengage, suggesting that Trump is withdrawing from his hard-line course on climate change and pursuing a policy of renegotiation.
Regardless of this uncertainty, COP22 continued to set out the details for the Paris Agreement, which are not expected to be completed until 2018, with a progress review at COP23. At COP22, officials worked to define the issues at stake and outline the action needed to cohesively combat those issues – listing what documents, what workshops, what information will need to be supplied to achieve the ends of the agreement.
Notable outcomes included the approval of a five-year workplan on “loss and damage” to start in 2017, which tackles issues such as non-economic losses and migration – impacts of climate change that cannot be adapted to. Much debate took place on how to create a fair “rulebook” on the Paris Agreement that all countries could share. Discussion on the technicalities of this will continue at COP23. Finally, countries were instructed to submit their own opinions on the finer details of the Paris Agreement by June 2017. This is hoped to help countries adhere to the pledges made, and inform future discussions on the Agreement.
Not all areas of discussion ended successfully, however. Discussions on how much funding each country should be putting towards combating climate change made little progress, and were left essentially incomplete, closing with a final statement urging countries to continue to work towards spending an annual $100bn by 2020. “Orphan issues”, referring to tasks set out within the Paris Agreement for which no one has been assigned responsibility, were also a hot topic of debate. No resolution was made on responsibility for some key issues such as goals for climate finance or timeframes for future climate pledges.
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