Thursday 17 November 2016

Blog Post 7 – COP Day 1

Monday was my first day at COP. We started the day by heading to the massive conference site and went through a security line that rivals any airport I’ve ever visited. In case you were wondering, 25 000 people are in Marrakesh to attend COP. We stood in another line to get a picture taken and just like that, I had a badge and was in!

Me and my badge in the civil societies tent. So many cool booths to look at! (PS can you tell Rebecca started forcing pictures upon me?)
       The site itself is mostly an organized maze of white tents, booths, and people from almost every country in the world. Two of my favourite things about the site are the huge variety of cultural garb, and the fascinating scrap metal art and car tire pieces littering the sides of the main walkway!
My favourite piece of scrap metal art (although this one was actually in one of the pavilions)

            After spending some time getting oriented I attended my first event, which was a Youth Circle event co-hosted by Thani Al Zeyoudi, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, and Catherine McKenna, the Minster of Environment and Climate Change of Canada. The event highlighted several young men and women from both Canada and the UAE, celebrating innovation, ideas and new technologies.

Several speakers, including Minister McKenna and Minister Al Zeyoudi, emphasized the importance of integrating climate change education into schools. One young woman from the UAE spoke of climate change as an issue that affects everything and so it should be taught as an aspect of every school subject – not just in a science course. This is an interesting perspective, and is perhaps something Canadian education systems could look into! After all, the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.

Minister McKenna speaking at the Youth Circle event right after arriving in Marrakesh. 

For those of you having a hard time understanding exactly what’s going on, you’re not alone – I’m physically here and it’s still a lot to take in! I was lucky enough to sit down with a member of International Institute for Sustainable Development (a non-governmental organization), who helped me understand what the heck is going on.

Here’s the gist of it: last December, COP21 produced the Paris Agreement, which is a global agreement to attain a low-emission future. The agreement requires all Parties to develop their best “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), otherwise known as climate change commitments, to fight climate change. Parties already did this for the Paris Agreement. The agreement further requires Parties to strengthen these efforts (“increase ambition” in COP-speak) in the years ahead. COP21 also produced a pledge to limit the increase in annual temperatures to below 2°C, with the aim of 1.5°C. In just under a year, 110 countries around the world have now ratified (validated or signed) the Paris Agreement, which is an astounding feat and shows the commitment of the global community to climate change action. The UNFCCC COP front page has a counter so you can see if the number has gone up since I wrote this post, and it gives more information on climate negotiations.

Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave a very inspiring speech at the CMA1 and High-Level Opening event.

COP22 here in Marrakesh has been labelled an “implementation COP”. In other words, the aim is to figure out how to put the words of the Paris Agreement into action over the coming years. This week, the focus is on high-level events about climate finance and climate action. As I write this, I’m watching heads of state and environment ministers, Presidents, and Prime Ministers from around the world arriving to the opening of CMA1 and the High-Level Opening. The CMA refers to the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. All States that are Parties to the Paris Agreement are represented at the CMA, while States that are not Parties participate as observers. The CMA oversees the implementation of the Paris Agreement and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation. Where the heck they got “CMA” is a mystery to all. The Moroccan President opened CMA1 (the first meeting under the Paris Agreement), moved on to the opening speeches, and then proceeded with country statements (see Canada's statement here). There was talk of possibly suspending CMA, and that will still likely happen once Parties have finished their statements. I know this may seem strange (why spend all that time in Paris coming to an agreement and then not move on it the next year?), but I’ve come to understand that there’s good reason. The Paris Agreement came into force in an unprecedented 12 months. This means that a minimum of 55 Parties ratified the agreement representing a minimum of 55% of global emissions. In order to give the remaining Parties time to go through their country’s ratification processes, and so that the negotiations under CMA1 don’t move ahead and alienate those countries that have not signed, CMA1 will likely be suspended.

So what will still be discussed in Marrakech? Parties will work to solidify the proposals made last week by their negotiators on commitments prior to the Paris Agreement. The take home message is that this amazing event is bringing 194 countries together to talk about the global issue of climate change and what to do about it. Climate change is a ubiquitous problem that can only be addressed if everyone is in the conversation.

Panelist at the global carbon budget event. 

After attending a side event on global carbon budgets and an event on climate finance and green businesses, we finished off with a debrief of the day and a late dinner at a restaurant in the market, where I finally caught my first good view of this incredible city!  

View from the restaurant overlooking the lit-up medina.

No comments:

Post a Comment