Report from COP22: Securing a more innovative, inclusive future

COP22, carbon pricing

(L-R) Climate advocates Laughlin Artz, Edward Lee, Naomi Lipke, Joe Robertson, and Dana Patterson at COP22 in Marrakech

Report from COP22: Securing a more innovative, inclusive future

By Joe Robertson

As soon as the Paris Agreement was achieved at COP21, the COP22 in Marrakech was billed as the “COP of Action,” the first global negotiation that would focus on activating the Paris commitments. The Paris Agreement has enjoyed the fastest wave of ratification and legal entry into force of any universal treaty. On November 4, 2016, less than 11 months after it was agreed, the Paris Agreement entered into legal force, years ahead of schedule.

A simple way of understanding the Marrakech negotiations—the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the first operational Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement—is that every detail of the Paris Agreement, including 195 national climate action strategies, needs to be mobilized in concrete terms. That work began in Marrakech.

Our engagement strategy

Some of the issues at stake in Marrakech were: how to deliver financing to projects that transform markets, allowing them to decarbonize rapidly or to rapidly develop using low-carbon practices; how to ensure cutting-edge low-carbon technologies and business models can spread to all economies in a cost-effective way; how to build long-term resilience and routine low-carbon business practices into national budget priorities and infrastructure development, and what kind of laws allow countries to work together most effectively in driving and benefitting from all of this change.

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Citizens’ Climate Education Network focuses on these three areas of action.

Our engagement strategy focused on three areas of action: Citizen engagement, carbon pricing, and climate-resilient investment strategies and timelines. The Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network is a strategy for expanding the civic space to let anyone anywhere have a say in climate policy at any time, and feeds into the Action for Climate Empowerment negotiations at the UNFCCC.

On carbon pricing, we joined the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition meetings, throughout the COP22, supported the creation of a new global commission of world-leading economists to map out optimal strategies for policy collaboration across borders and for getting prices right, and to spread the word about ways effective carbon pricing and citizen engagement fit together into a powerful signal to markets to shift investment sooner, rather than later.

We continued the work of making sure strong principles for effective, efficient, equitable carbon pricing, are built into the international process:

  • A steady, resolute and rising carbon price.
  • Internalizing costs incrementally, steadily and with no leakage.
  • Simple, transparent, effective at reducing emissions.
  • Building economic value at the human scale.
  • Easy to implement: country by country, harmonizing across borders.

The third element of our engagement, supporting a global transition to climate-resilient investment (CRI), connects these other areas of action to an ambitious goal inherent in the commitments the world made in Paris: transitioning all financial sector activity everywhere away from practices that contribute to climate disruption. We hosted a Global Online Forum on November 4, the day the Paris Agreement entered into force, to outline ways to achieve this.

Forward to prosper at COP22 and beyond

Our activities kicked off with the Global Online Forum on Climate-Smart Investment, marking the entry into force of the Paris Agreement. Two days later, the day before the conference opened, we joined a conference on Climate Change and Human Rights, hosted by the Moroccan government. And on Monday, November 7, the COP22 opened with a plenary session involving all nations, calling for strong and steady commitment to achieving and going beyond the goals set in Paris.

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Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated America’s commitment to climate action following the election results.

By Wednesday, November 9, the news had made its way to everyone that Donald Trump had won the electoral college and would be the next US president. While the news was met with shock and dismay by most, especially given Mr. Trump’s past allegation that climate science was a Chinese hoax, the tens of thousands of people in Marrakech for serious work got back down to it. There is just too much to be gained for the United States in moving forward with manufacturing and investment in the clean economy to worry about real backsliding.

Our election comment from Marrakech was “Forward to Prosper: the Future of Climate Action.” Those that opt to postpone the date when their national economy is fully climate resilient will remove themselves from the global economic leadership of this century. The climate issue is already beyond politics, even if some participants in the political process don’t understand the power and resonance of this fact.

Rapid decarbonization and low-carbon development across the full spectrum of human activities is how we will unite disenfranchised communities dependent on old technologies with world-leading investment practices and clean national development strategies. Though some will continue to play politics with rhetoric the rest of the world has long left behind, the building of a cleaner, smarter, more sustainable and democratic future is underway.

No world leader will succeed by opposing anyone’s access to this better future. Now, more than ever, it is for citizens to build the civic space where the path to a clean future is self-evident and irreversible.

On the Sunday between the two weeks, with co-conveners Partnership for Change and in collaboration with the Norwegian Nobel Institute, we hosted a High-Level Dialogue on Accelerating NDC Action, as part of the series Accelerating Progress, Advancing Innovation. Outcomes from this dialogue will be added to a report from the full series, to provide targeted insight to leaders in government, business, innovation, and policy design, to support the most effective roll-out of climate-smart standards and practices.

Co-creating the economy of the future

What is most often misunderstood about the global climate negotiations is how they relate to national economic prospects. A common perception has long been that the global negotiations intend to exact high costs on national economies, in service of hard-to-meet technical goals. The reality is: the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is an annual congress in which the nations of the world attempt to coordinate a project whereby they will co-create the clean, efficient, sustainable economy of the future.

COP22 group

On the last day of COP22, attendees affirmed: “We will move ahead.”

This was the message in our COP22 press conference. A planet-wide collaborative transition is underway, and that is where the smart money needs to go. To ensure the COP22 is remembered as the spur to action, we will be working with partners to ensure that citizens, government, entrepreneurs and innovators are co-creating a new economic model, where climate stewardship and low-carbon innovation are core value propositions.

The populist demand requires just & effective climate action

The world has seen a wave of populist and anti-establishment politics over the last year, which has many fearing the transition to low-carbon economies will be stalled or reversed by uncooperative nationalist leaders and by a campaign of anti-environmental deregulation. But the urges that have driven the call for more populist leaders arise from the call for cleaner, smarter, more inclusive economics, and a just transition.

There is, in the hard-line populist demand for government that responds to people’s needs and empowers people to live with more personal autonomy, an implicit demand for rapid, effective climate action. We cannot achieve the economic fairness and political autonomy so many millions are demanding unless we eliminate the pervasive economic and ecological degradations that are driving climate change.

The old economy is extractive and exploitative, putting most people’s direct interest at odds with the direct interest of the most powerful and influential managers of resources, and leaving the interest of natural systems out of the equation altogether. The new economy is efficient and empowering, rewarding entrepreneurs whose profit motives align with the ability to give people more personal economic and technical capability, while securing natural life-support systems against disruption and degradation.

I am proud to say that during the first global negotiations where Citizens’ Climate Education fielded its own accredited delegation, we did serious work to bring all of this to light, and to motivate and support the policy and technical innovation needed to achieve a climate-smart future.

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Joe Robertson is the Global Strategy Director for Citizens' Climate Lobby. He is also the author of CCL's booklet, "Building the Green Economy."

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