The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) on 7 to 18 November 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco is geared towards encouraging countries to commit to a low-carbon economy, developing National Adaptation Plans that incorporate their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and low emission development strategy (LEDS) within the period 2015 to 2030 (from COP21, Article 4, paragraph 19).
This is following through from the 2015 Paris Agreement where countries recognized the urgency to address the impacts of climate change and committed to pursue intensified actions and investments towards sustainable low carbon economies, to be registered and monitored through NDCs that will be prepared, communicated and maintained, apart from domestic mitigation measures.
COP22 in Marrakech is a COP of action, according to COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar and focuses on the priorities that COP21 laid out such as adaptation, transparency, technology transfer, mitigation, capacity building, and loss and damages. COP22 is also where urgent action is taken to ensure the stability and security of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, particularly those in the African region and the small island states.
And for first time in the history of the COP, a large-scale technical solutions conference of technical experts, scientists, engineers, business, academe, and civil society is being organized for countries as one of the main events to be held on the sidelines of COP22. The Low-Emissions Solutions Conference: Global Brainstorming on Practical Pathways to Low Emissions is undertaken mainly to strengthen the technical capacities of 196 signatory governments to the Paris Agreement in designing and implementing their long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (NDCs and LEDS). The conference is organized by the Government of Morocco, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, and the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives–Local Governments for Sustainability and is hoped to become an annual event at future COPs.
But while there are the technological elements of the global response, COP22 is also about universal solidarity and where youth, equality, and democracy have to be the sustaining bases by which the technological actions can be meaningful and helpful to people, where technology must have compassion and the focus on Africa and small island states is essential.
Driss El Yazami, Head of Civil Society Activities in COP22, said in a recent interview that “Marrakech will be the COP of Africa. We want to raise the problems and the needs of this continent during this conference. We know also that international civil society played a major role to obtain the Paris Agreement. In Marrakech, we’ll have the first meeting between government and the non-state actors.”
In responding to the impacts of a changing climate, COP22 has a framework of action where innovations in technology towards low-carbon economies are accompanied by a re-discovery of “universalism” that enables all to act together even if, as Driss El Yazami said, “historic responsibilities and future effects are not equally shared.”
The release of Laudato si’, the transition from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement are key events in 2015 that are framing the responses and actions to climate change. As we prepare for Marrakech, these are the questions emerging:
- How can we enable and ensure a further humanizing and deepening of the Marrakech efforts at a time when there is world fear about refugees, wars, terrorism, the incongruence in European politics and democracy, and of course economic growth?
- How can people talk about human conversion as the heart of the matter, and not just innovative technological solutions?
- How can we care for and accompany those in the margins and those who are excluded when cities are better planned with major technical transitions, with, for example, no displacement of informal settlers for techno-efficiency?
- How do these technical responses also enable the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals with compassion?
And finally, how does civil society, the NGOs, and the Church engage with Marrakech, and create the awareness and commitment for change so as to engage with this annual process of COP?
For many African countries, basic poverty and lack of basic needs are far from being addressed and life is not sustainable under the present climate for a majority of people. The sustained melting of the Arctic makes it clear that the risks of sea-level rise for the atoll islands, the small island states in the tropics, are now becoming a reality.