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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Reflections on COP 22

COP 22 in Marrakech convened on 7 November; with a two week window in which to commence the implementation of the Paris Agreement (adopted at COP 21 in Paris) and to resume the discussion on issues that were essentially suspended while the Paris climate conference dedicated most of its political capital on stewarding in the new climate treaty.

This is an unusual COP in many regards.

Firstly, it took just 10 months for the Paris Agreement to legally commence (or as the negotiators say, “enter into force”). This is a major milestone in the history of climate negotiations, and one which eluded the Kyoto Protocol for eight years. And so the focus of the Marrakech conference is to signal to the world that continued momentum is being maintained for the multilateral processes that underpin the UNFCCC, and the climate actions that populate the Nationally Determined Contribution Process. Indeed, countries like Australia and Japan announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement here in Marrakech, with Australia also ratifying the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.

Secondly, there are essentially three things that the COP set out to deliver, and it has. These are:

  • A US$100B finance roadmap indicating developed country pledges to assist developing countries in their climate actions – both mitigation and separation
  • Capacity Building Mechanism and it's executive oversight – which will see its Board come together in April next year
  • Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) – or the ‘loss and damage’ mechanism to make more climate resilient those countries vulnerable to climate impact's from actions past

So from these perspectives, Marrakech – which also hails bragging rights for the Marrakech Accord at COP 7 in 2001 – will be hailed a success. However, on Day 9 (Tuesday, 15 November) there seems little urgency to go much beyond these three outcomes. This was perhaps indicated on day 1 (Monday, 7 November) when the chairs of the Ad-hoc Working Group on The Paris Agreement (APA), and the Subsidiary Bodies for Implementation (SBI) and Science and Technological Advice (SBSTA) ushered all agenda items to be discussed in what’s called informal consultations. These ‘discussion spaces’ are essentially idea generating discussions.

And even when these informal discussions were called to a conclusion on Friday, 11 November with some to open consultations and contact groups, many of the issues will be deferred to COP 23, with negotiations restarting in the mid-year conference in Bonn.

Of interest to CCS is 2 outstanding issues in the CDM: (i) the establishment of a general reserve of Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) units; and (ii) agreement on the eligibility of CCS projects that involve the transboundary movement of CO2 (is. across national boundaries). The SBSTA Chair decided on the opening day to draft the CMP (ultimate decision making body of the Kyoto Protocol) recommendations himself in consultation with “interested parties”. This is known colloquially as “kicking the issue down the road for another time”. However, the recommendations seem a little more defined than that with SBSTA recommending that they have ‘concluded their considerations’.

This suggests that CCS will not be burdened by a compulsory and additional fund to underwrite any unforseen events that may happen (which are highly unlikely). Also, there is nothing stopping proponents who are undertaking CCS projects involving transboundary movement of CO2, and who have the approvals of all governments involved, to register those projects with the CDM. It is worth noting, however, that there have been no CCS projects applying to the CDM – and this is noted ion the recommendations as well.

As far as the Institute’s engagement in the COP are concerned, outside of tracking the negotiations, it has been another intense advocacy effort.  So far it has:

  • Hosted four major side-events: (industrial CCS, CCS and the IPCC, why CCS is so important to the climate goals, and taking NDCs to climate action)
  • Participated in two major external events (EBRD, CP4)
  • Hosted a high level dinner-dialogue on CCS
  • Launched the 2016 Status Report at a UNFCCC endorsed side-event
  • Hosted a joint press conference on the Status Report in the UNFCCC Press Room with the IEA Head of Energy Technology Policy Division and Lord Stern
  • Conducted several media interviews including the UNFCCC’s Climate Studio
  • Collaborated with IETA and the Nordic Pavillion in the Blue Zone of COP 22
  • Reporting on the negotiations through a dedicated COP 22 webpage hosted on the Institute’s server
  • A UNFCCC endorsed exhibit

With three days to go, it seems that discussions have all but dried up on key issues; which will be picked up again in the mid-year intersessional meetings, with recommendations on many of the issues to be presented to the respective decision making bodies at COP 23 (rumoured to be located in Bonn next year and hosted by Fiji).