Climate action gains further momentum in Marrakech

The Paris climate agreement came into force several years earlier than originally expected. At the Climate Change Conference held in Marrakech, Morocco, on 7 to 18 November 2016, the details and implementation of the Paris Agreement were negotiated. The Finnish delegation included Senior Scientist Tommi Ekholm and Research Scientist Tomi J. Lindroos from VTT. Progress was made, even if it was slow and often technical and bureaucratic. In many cases, the most interesting things happened outside the meeting rooms.

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The negotiations focused on the implementation of the Paris Agreement – detailed rules that ensure the attainment of the Paris Agreement in practice. Key issues included the rules for international emissions trading, funding and capacity-building for developing countries, and the reporting of emissions by such nations. As is customary at climate change summits, rapid progress was made on some fronts, while negotiations almost stalled on other issues. The most difficult topic seemed to be the so-called ‘global stocktake’ process. This will consist of a five-yearly assessment of whether the countries’ emission reduction targets will suffice to hold global warming under two degrees.

The election of Donald Trump as US president was confirmed during the first week of the summit. This led to a reaction of disbelief and uncertainty at the climate conference, since he had promised to begin his term in office by withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement. Correspondingly, many developing countries had indicated that their participation depended on that of the US. However, the Marrakesh summit retained its positive spirit, with the participants deciding that one country or president should not be allowed to block promising developments. China, for example, promised to take a more leading role if the United States stays on the sidelines. In just over a week, Trump had already reconsidered and was giving thought to sticking by the Paris Agreement.

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USA side-event in Marrakech.

Many countries published new climate objectives or strategies before, during or after the climate meeting. In addition to nation states, over 7,000 municipalities and cities have adopted voluntary climate goals; while hundreds of companies have made their own climate pledges and set emission reduction targets. We have clearly entered a new era of climate policy.

The speed of technology development surprises every year

The price of many low-carbon technologies, such as solar and wind power, have fallen faster than expected over the last few years. Around 300 billion dollars were invested globally in renewable energy production in 2015, and the cost of renewable electricity has clearly fallen below that of fossil power in many auctions. The next, corresponding transformation may occur in traffic.

Global CO2 emissions have almost marked time over the last three years. This development has been much more positive than countries’ emission reduction commitments suggest. On the other hand, the matter is urgent since many observations and measurements indicate faster-than-expected global warming, and more dramatic effects than predicted.

Tomi J. Lindroos, Research Scientist

Tommi Ekholm, Senior Scientist

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