07 Dec 2016

COP22: Updates from the event

Posted in: Environmental news

A series of guests posts about COP22 in Marrakech from New Zealand Youth Delegation representative Laurette Siemonek. She summarises her experiences at COP22 in a series of daily posts. Learn more about Laurette below.

7 November

Today marked the official opening of 22nd Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) in Marrakech. COP22 brings 197 states together to negotiate climate action and implementation of the Paris Agreement. It all began with the plenary session officially opening COP22 and the climate presidency was passed over from her Excellency Ségolène Royal (president of COP21 in Paris) to his Excellency Salaheddine Mezouar (now president COP22 in Marrakech). Her Excellency Ségolène Royal described the uneven consumption of the world’s resources and greenhouse gas pollution, “Three grand principles have guided my action on COP21 … above all, climate justice: The richest countries live as though there were three planets; the poorest countries as though there is no planet left.”  Another highlight came from Liz Gallagher, director of the Climate Briefing Service, who called out some of the world’s largest countries who have not yet ratified the Paris Agreement, “By 2018, we need all countries to have joined, so Russia, South Africa, Japan, and others need to sign.”

After the plenary, I attended the side event “Implementing national contributions under the Paris Agreement: Opportunities and Challenges and Expectations for COP 22” and Climate Action Network meetings where we developed the strategy for the New Zealand Youth Delegations (NZYD) campaign and communications plan.  The NZYD also had our first stakeholder briefing with the New Zealand Government Delegation. The stakeholder briefing consisted of introductions, the establishment of ground rules, the Governmental intentions of transparency and commitment, and a Q&A session. The Q&A session covered a series of tough questions including fossil fuel subsidy reform, forestry accounting and New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). The first day of COP22 ended with the “Fossil Of The Day” award being presented to Turkey. This award was received for a series of reasons but particularly for its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) that has been calculated to allow its emissions to more than double over the next 15 years, amid substantial construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Flags outside the COP22 venue A solar tree to charge devices at COP22

Outside the COP22 venue, visitors see flags outside the COP22 venue. Visitors can charge their devices using a solar power tree.

8 November

The second day of COP22 began with Morocco outlining their own increased climate action efforts. Morocco’s central bank, Bank Al-Maghrib, has bought $100 million worth of World Bank Green Bonds. Not long after this, Japan (one of the world’s largest emitting nations) announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement. This comes four days after the Paris Agreement officially entered into force. Japan has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below 2013 levels by 2030.

Although a number of the Governmental negotiation meetings are closed to observers, there are still many events to be attended. I attended the Global Climate Action launch event on global action towards achievements of NDCs. The mitigation efforts under the Paris Agreement rely on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The event explained that the intent of NDCs is to build commitments from the bottom up that will keep the world on track to limit global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C. So far, the total emissions reductions of NDCs will be inadequate to reach this objective. That means considerable attention must be dedicated to seeking political, financial and technical means to increase international ambition to arrive at the necessary level of greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

I also attended a number of side events. The ‘Centre for indigenous Cultures of Peru’ discussed the role of indigenous people and the Green Fund. S. Kimaren, delegate from Kenya, stated “the Climate Green Fund is a new way to promote development and fight against the marginalization of indigenous people.”

Meanwhile, no country has yet volunteered to host COP23, making it probable that COP23 will be at the UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn. Fiji has expressed interest to gain the role of Vice-Chair at COP23. If Fiji is successful, it would be the first time a Pacific Island nation holds the vice-chair position during UN climate talks.

The venue Plenary Marrakech where a number of meetings and events are held
The venue Plenary Marrakech where a number of meetings and events are held.

9 November

The third day of COP22 had a considerably different feel to the previous two. The wake of Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States of America is clear, from the moment I passed through security and into the COP venue. There were openly strong reactions from attendees from the United States of America and the rest of the world. Donald Trump’s victory in the US election continued to cast a long shadow over climate talks today, with delegates and observers questioning the future of the Paris Agreement and international efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Thoughts across COP22 were that the result will likely mean major setbacks in the effort to combat climate change, with Donald Trump calling climate change science a “hoax” and vowing to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement.

The election of Donald Trump has made the need for countries, including New Zealand, to increase the ambition of their emissions reductions targets all the more important. In New Zealand, it is vital that we take leadership on climate change and take action on our commitment to the Paris Agreement. This calling was reinforced in the Demand Climate Justice press briefing. Geoffrey Kamese, delegate from Friends of the Earth Africa, called on New Zealand, alongside the European Union and Canada, as a country that needs to increase its ambition and lead real action on climate change.

Demand Climate Justice Coalition press briefing

Demand Climate Justice Coalition press briefing

10 November

The fourth day of COP22 is Young and Future Generations Day. Climate change stands to have the most considerable impact on youth and future generations; therefore a day has been dedicated for intergenerational inquiry into the implications of climate change.

I attended a number of significant events including: ‘Showcase Cities and Human Settlements (Resilience in Cities and Buildings – Achievements of NDCs)’, ‘Dialogue Cities and Human Settlements (Buildings)’ and ‘Dialogue Cities and Human Settlements (Resilience in Cities)’. I also attended the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) informal consultations on issues relating to agriculture that was open to observers. Both the G77 (a coalition of developing nations) and the EU have proposed texts to guide the Paris Agreement’s action on agriculture. New Zealand supports the EU’s text, as it is perceived to be more inclusive and integrating of NDCs. Similar to the US, New Zealand stated that there needs to be less focus on the differences between the two texts but instead on the similarities. The G77 responded that they cannot make a decision yet and need more time to examine the EU proposal. At this point the meeting was adjourned and all countries were required to examine both texts and return at 3pm for a ‘closed to observers’ negotiation on the texts. This consultation was an eye-opening example of how difficult it is for 197 countries to reach consensus.

There were two significant developments for the fourth day of COP22 which were positive reassurance that the global commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions was not completely lost with the US election. Australia announced ratification of the Paris Agreement and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA, the largest US Muslim umbrella organisation) announced that it would divest from fossil fuels.

event at COP22

Delegates attending a meeting at COP22

11 November

Throughout the fifth day of COP22, governmental negotiations took place in groups and informal consultations under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). Informal consultations under the APA addressed: modalities and procedures for the effective operation of the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance; global stock take; modalities, procedures and guidelines for the transparency framework for action and support; among other matters.

Today was also an influential day for women in the climate space. A panel of female leaders including UNFCCC head Patricia Espinosa and COP22 champion Hakima El Haite made an announcement about how C40 cities (a network of cities taking action climate change) will be supporting the next generation of women leaders in climate change. Espinosa stated that women are not only victims of global warming, but they are also part of the solution and that we must inspire more women to take the lead in tackling climate change.

In addition, I attended the Global Climate Action events on Showcase Energy (renewables, efficiency and access); Equipment, Transport and Logistics (sectors commitment to sustainable development); and Dialogue Energy (access) events. The focus on renewable energy is also present around the COP22 venue with solar trees distributed throughout the venue for people to charge their electronic devices and larger solar panels positioned outside of the conference.

Solar panels on display outside the conference venue for COP22

Solar panels on display outside the conference venue for COP22

12 November

The sixth and final day of week one of COP22 was particularly influential with Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Italy ratifying the Paris Agreement. In addition, the first working group session of the Multilateral Assessment (MA) under the second round of the International Assessment and Review process (IAR) was held. Twenty-four Annex I Parties will be multilaterally assessed in total; the countries assessed today included the European Union, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Italy.

I also attended a number of seminars, including ‘Momentum for Change: Energy Efficiency through Smart Lighting Systems’. This event examined how countries, cities and corporations are using smart lighting systems to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs. Other highlights were the seminars on ‘Paris Agreement: UN agencies’ Dialogue on Impacts of Mitigation Measures’ and ‘Linkages with Trade and Multilateral Assessment Dialogue Transport (a Global Climate Action Private Finance event)’.

As week one of COP22 draws to a close, preparations are in full swing for the arrival of world leaders next week, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and many heads of state and government. Week two of COP22 will also involve the first meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement. New Zealand also appears to have a larger international presence in the second week.  New Zealand will be multilaterally assessed on Monday 14 November and countries will be provided with the opportunity to ask questions on New Zealand’s climate response.

Directions at COP22
Directions at COP22

14 November

Today is the first day of week two of COP22. The first working group session of the Multilateral Assessment under the second round of the International Assessment and Review process resumed today. The remaining Annex 1 parties were analysed including Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. New Zealand gave a comprehensive presentation on our emissions profile and commitments and responded to many questions including from Korea, France, the EU, the Netherlands, India, China, the UK, and the USA. Other countries were particularly interested in how New Zealand would ensure our obligations are met under the emissions trading scheme, what measures we’re taking to reduce agriculture emissions and how would we compile a carbon budget.

The New Zealand Youth Delegation held an Action on climate change. The Action was focused on encouraging international mitigation efforts, with a focus on increasing all nations’ ambitions, particularly New Zealand’s.

The New Zealand delegates met New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, Paula Bennett, who arrived at COP22 for week two. COP22 is Minister Bennett’s first COP as she took over the climate change portfolio from Tim Groser at the beginning of this year. It was great to hear Minister Bennett speak about the importance of climate change, along with, the need for New Zealand to achieve our emissions reductions targets and work towards limiting global temperature increase to 2°C.

I attended the Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform and Climate Change side event. Here New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassador Mark Sinclair spoke about the importance of an economy that provides clean, affordable energy in such a way that we can de-carbonise our economy. I also attended the Momentum for Change event where international music star Akon discussed smart lighting systems. Akon is the co-founder of Akon Lighting Africa, which aims to develop solar powered solutions that will provide African villages with access to affordable and clean electricity. 

New Zealand answering questions during the multilateral assessment

New Zealand answering questions during the multilateral assessment

New Zealand Youth Action at COP22 New Zealand youth delegates met New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, Paula Bennett

New Zealand Youth Action at COP22; New Zealand youth delegates met New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, Paula Bennett

Akon speaks on smart lighting systems at COP22

Akon speaks on smart lighting systems at COP22

15 November

Today was the first official meeting of the parties under the Paris Agreement. This was ceremonially opened by COP22 President Salaheddin Mezouar. This means that the high-level segment of the COP was in full swing, with discussions led by ministers and heads of state. However, many questions remained for ministers and heads of state to resolve, including levels of ambition, reform of fossil fuel subsidies, renewable energy, and of course funding. 

Today 33 countries and nine international institutions came together and launched the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) Partnership. The Partnership is a new initiative to help countries achieve their national climate commitments and ensure financial and technical assistance is delivered as efficiently as possible. The effort was co-chaired by the governments of Morocco and Germany, and the World Resources Institute hosted the Support Unit.

There were a number of highlights for today. I attended the 100% Renewable Energy for 1.5°C seminar. New Zealand delegates were also given the privilege of meeting with the former New Zealand Prime Minister and current Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Helen Clark. Helen Clark spoke about potential implications of the Trump election, agriculture and New Zealand’s emissions profile.

New Zealand received today’s “Fossil of the Day” award on the basis of conflicting fossil fuel subsidy reforms. New Zealand has ratified the Paris Agreement (under which goals have been set which require at least 80 percent of fossil fuels to remain unburned globally) and is a founding member of the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (the group’s aim is to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies), and encouraged governments around the globe to join this group at a COP22 side event. However the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise website discusses ambitions to increase New Zealand petroleum exports, which conflicts with this ambition.

New Zealand youth delegates meet with Helen Clark

New Zealand delegates meet with Helen Clark

New Zealand awarded its first fossil of the day award for 2016

New Zealand awarded its first fossil of the day award for 2016.

16 November

Today was an influential day in declaring support for climate change action. Portugal committed to being carbon neutral by 2050. Portugal is the first developed nation to commit to transitioning to carbon neutrality, which will hopefully inspire other developed nations to follow in their path.

There has been considerable calling for the private sector to play a role in advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement. Companies around the world are stepping up their ambition by setting emissions reductions targets that are scientifically consistent with efforts to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. Today, the Science Based Targets initiative announced that 200 companies, representing $4.8 trillion in market value, have committed to set such targets. These companies are distributed across 33 countries and represent a wide range of sectors, demonstrating that the growing momentum for a low-carbon future is global, crosscutting and in businesses’ best interest.

Minister Paula Bennett opened New Zealand’s Carbon Markets side event. She discussed New Zealand’s commitment to high integrity carbon markets. A panel of experts, including one from the New Zealand Government Delegation, examined carbon markets and their importance in more depth. I also attended both a showcase and a dialogue event on agriculture and food security. Another highlight was a press conference where John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, presented a powerful speech and explained that no one can deny the remarkable progress that had been made in the climate change space, but stressed, “We are nowhere near where we need to be.”  Kerry asked, “Do we have the collective will?  It won’t happen without sustained commitment from those in power.”

At a separate press conference, the Vice President of the Chinese Delegation, Liu Zhenmin, provided the world with a little more comfort by stating that China (the world’s largest emitting nation) was in a good position to make further contributions to address climate change. “I believe that with the increase of our capacity, with the development of our industry, China will be in a much better position in the future, to make a greater contribution to the international effort to address climate change.”  

The day ended with New Zealand receiving a second ‘Fossil of the Day’ award. This one is due to the use of poor carbon credits in the past, while advocating for the integrity of international carbon markets. There were 97 million units purchased to meet New Zealand’s obligations under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Those 97 million credits have been shown by the Stockholm Environment Institute to represent little, if any, actual emissions reductions, but these credits have not since been forfeited or replaced.

Minister Paula Bennett at the Carbon Markets side event Panel of experts at the Carbon Markets side event

Minister Paula Bennett at the Carbon Markets side event; Panel of experts at the Carbon Markets side event

New Zealand awarded its second Fossil of the Day award

New Zealand awarded its second Fossil of the Day award

17 November 

Today started with the High-Level Event on Accelerating Climate Action. The champions, Ambassador Laurence Tubiana and Minister Hakima El Haite presented to Parties and non-Party Stakeholders their proposed approach for accelerating climate action in the period 2017– 2020. At this event New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, Paula Bennett, also delivered a statement explaining that New Zealand is committed to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions and to helping pacific nations, such as Tokelau, to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In the afternoon, informal consultations also took place under the COP Presidency on the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1).

I also attended the COP22 Low-Emissions Solutions Press Conference. The press conference discussed low carbon solutions for country delegations to scale up and speed up the implementation of the Paris Agreement.  John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State also gave his last official speech at COP today before his handover to the Trump administration. Kerry emphasised “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the first place…no-one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people…without proper input”.

The first long term (2050) strategies were released by Germany, the US, Mexico and Canada. They form part of the ‘2050 Pathway Platform’ which was also officially launched. The draft ‘Marrakech Action Proclamation’ was also released. It highlights the ‘extraordinary momentum on climate change’ seen this year, but warns of the urgent need to increase action. In addition, the Adaptation Fund (a fund established to assist developing countries in their emission reduction efforts) surpassed its objective to raise US $80 million in contributions for the coming year, reaching a total of US $81 million.

Youth delegates and the iconic ‘happy world’
Youth delegates and the iconic ‘happy world’

18 November 

The twelfth and final day of COP22 saw the Marrakech Action Proclamation officially accepted. The acceptance of this proclamation reaffirms the willingness of all countries to fight against climate change and to support sustainable development. By 2020 countries should reveal their 2050 long-term commitments to address climate change. As at Friday 18 November, 111 countries have also ratified the Paris Agreement.

Closing plenary meetings continued into the early hours of Saturday morning with the decision made at 2:18am that CMA1 will be suspended and will reconvene in 2017. COP22 was officially closed at 2:47am.

Final day at COP22 outside Plenary Marrakech where the closing plenary meetings are taking place
Final day at COP22 outside Plenary Marrakech where the closing plenary meetings are taking place

About Laurette Siemonek

Laurette SiemonekLaurette Siemonek has been selected as one of nine people to represent New Zealand as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Youth Delegation at the United Nations COP22 climate change conference, held in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7-18 November. She is currently a Master’s in Environmental Studies postgraduate student at Victoria University of Wellington. Laurette is initially from Tauranga but moved to Wellington in 2013 to begin a Bachelor of Science degree at Victoria University. She is extremely passionate about climate change and will be examining indigenous perspectives of climate change (including and mitigation and adaption opportunities) for her Master’s thesis, which she will begin in 2017. She has employment experience working at the Ministry for the Environment in the Climate Change Analysis team and she currently is employed as a Teaching Assistant at Victoria University of Wellington and as an Environmental Consultant at Te Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai Charitable Trust. Laurette is honoured to have been selected as part of the Delegation and is looking forward to communicating the happenings at COP22.

All content and photos courtesy of Laurette.