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The vulnerable taking the lead: new energy for implementing the Paris Agreement after COP22

Widely considered a more technical summit focused on implementation issues, COP22 was overshadowed by the unexpected results of the US elections. However, those attending in Marrakesh made very clear that they had no intention of allowing anyone to build new barriers or of fighting old battles again. As Moroccan Environment Minister Anil M. Dave summarized, “[...] the greatest achievement of the summit was that it managed to carry forward the momentum on climate action gained in Paris.” His optimism seems to be justified given some of the major initiatives that complemented the more technical negotiations.

A strong signal was sent towards implementation with the launch of the NDC Partnership, to be co-chaired by the governments of Germany and Morocco. The partnership is a coalition of developing and developed countries, as well as international institutions like the World Resources Institute, that are working together to ensure countries receive the technical and financial support they need to achieve their climate and sustainable development goals. However, it still remains to be seen how quickly the partnership will be able to accelerate implementation and meet the high expectations of the countries facing the challenge of taking the next steps towards NDC implementation.

Morocco, as the host of COP22, has also been involved in a number of other ambitious initiatives aimed at putting the Paris Agreement into action. These include the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of 48 countries highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. On the last day of the COP, the group launched its Marrakesh vision and adopted an agenda to maintain the target of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. A major part of the CVF countries’ rationale in supporting this objective was to maintain peace and stability in view of potential severe climate change impacts in the future. This is even more important given that the forum includes extremely vulnerable and fragile countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, South Sudan and Yemen. One of the major elements of the Marrakesh vision is that the members “strive to meet 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible, while working to end energy poverty and protect water and food security, taking into consideration national circumstances.”

Although they CVF members have not set a target year for achieve their 100% renewables goal yet, they gave a clearer idea of how they envisage moving forward by further elaborating their low emission strategies for 2050, with their updated nationally determined contributions playing a key role. With this announcement the group also put pressure on other country groups that have a larger role to play in meeting the overall carbon challenge. The most prominent example is the G20 – where Germany is due to take over the presidency on 1 December. The group accounts for 80% of energy-related CO2 emissions according to the IEA. With the Marrakesh vision, 48 of countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change sent a strong signal to G20 and other major emitters: preserving the momentum from Paris and showing leadership in future will require an integrated approach that considers the interrelated nature of climate and energy challenges when taking the next steps towards implementation.