Selected category: Marrakesh

What happened to agriculture's potential for action at the "COP of Action"?

By Jade Lu, Environmental Science and Biology major at Duke University, and Dana Miller, EDF Policy Analyst

November 14, 2016 – the SBSTA closing plenary at COP22 in Marrakesh, photo by Dana Miller

Hailed as the “COP of Action” since before its opening, COP22 no longer holds such promise for agriculture. The scene seemed set for action: the Paris Agreement opened the doors for real progress on agriculture and there were clear commonalities in both country goals and practices. During the negotiations, while there were differences, countries were able to agree on some significant issues and worked hard to reach a decision. However, differences won out and countries were not able to focus on these areas of consensus to reach a substantive decision when the agenda item closed on Friday, postponing discussions until the next negotiations in May 2017. So, how did this happen, and where do we go from here?

The promise for action

As parties began to discuss agriculture, they unearthed many areas of common ground. There was a strong sense of urgency and desire for action shared by many countries. Countries agreed on the need to explore policy options to spur action. Countries also acknowledged the need to address climate change through good agricultural practices and to share knowledge and lessons learned. As we wrote in our last blog and analysis, countries are already implementing many common practices, which they shared in their submissions to SBSTA 44. These practices include efficiently managing resources like water, nutrients, and soil, which can have multiple benefits for adaptation, mitigation and productivity.

Full negotiating texts were put forward, giving parties a starting ground. This was further than negotiators had gotten since discussions on agriculture started in Durban in 2011. They finally had the ability to address possible points of contention, then to adjust, and finally compromise. The delegates were obviously hard at work in the days leading up to their submission deadline. They met late into the night negotiating a text that could be somewhat acceptable to all parties. After three long days, however, negotiators could not get past fundamental differences. This led to a half-worked upon text that countries decided they could not use as a starting point for negotiations at the next SBSTA in May, losing much of the progress they made this week.

What went wrong?

Even as progress was made in certain areas – with valuable contributions from many parties – other components were locked in complete standstill. There were fundamental disagreements that stalled the negotiations, such as:

  • Whether to only focus on adaptation and food security—which is of utmost importance to all, but especially vulnerable, developing countries—or to also address mitigation in agriculture
  • and whether there should be a call for developed countries to provide finance and other support for developing countries.

While the COP presidency strongly encouraged the Parties to reach an agreement and put pressure by offering clear deadlines, parties were unable to negotiate efficiently. It is clear that both significantly more time and efficiency will be required to achieve real progress on agriculture.

The silver lining

The issue of agriculture is complex and the fact that parties are offering texts as starting points for negotiations shows that future progress on agriculture may be closer than it looks:

  • There is even stronger urgency and desire for action. Negative impacts of climate change are being felt now for agriculture. Agricultural emissions are significantly contributing to the warming of our planet. Inaction will no longer be an option. This urgency will be made clear on Wednesday, November 16 at the Agriculture and Food Security Action Day during the second week of COP22.
  • Though it was difficult to reach agreement at this COP, countries are starting to acknowledge that many best agricultural practices have benefits for both adaptation and mitigation.
  • Countries are already implementing many good agricultural practices, which they have shared with each other at the UNFCCC and in other international fora. These practices can provide areas of common ground for the next negotiations.
  • Progress, even incremental and painstaking, is still progress. Text was proposed and discussed; valuable contributions and ideas were shared. Parties can take elements of this text, especially points of consensus, to the subsidiary meeting in May.

Of course, this is all dependent on the commitment and willingness to engage on agriculture – from all stakeholders. Countries must be willing to focus on common goals between all countries, and also to compromise where needed. EDF and our partners stand ready to provide support and share our experiences in agriculture in countries around the world to reach a decision on agriculture.

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Why we could see progress on agriculture at the Marrakesh climate talks

By Jade Lu, Environmental Science and Biology major at Duke University, and Dana Miller, EDF Policy Analyst

Photo: Rakesh Tiwari (SACRED)

The interactions between the agricultural sector and climate change have undeniable implications for both global food security and our environment. Despite this global significance, and perhaps due to the complexity of the subject, there has been little progress to date on agriculture in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. However, this could be about to change.

The impetus of Paris Climate Agreement and leadership by the Moroccan presidency could unlock the opportunity to advance agricultural issues at the climate talks, known as COP22, taking place this week in Marrakesh. Furthermore, country actions and targets as inscribed in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) both show commitment to the agricultural sector and help highlight key common practices that could form a basis for international collaboration.

While much of COP22 will be focused on laying groundwork for the Paris Agreement, agriculture could be an area of significant progress in Marrakesh, potentially resulting in a COP decision or work program on agriculture.

There is a strong need to address agriculture in COP22

Agriculture at once contributes significantly to climate change and faces some of the greatest risks posed by climate change. Agriculture is estimated to contribute one-third of all emissions. Conversely, climate change is projected to have negative impacts on agriculture, especially in developing countries. With 800 million people currently undernourished worldwide, the majority of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and a projected population increase of more than 2 billion people by 2050, it is no wonder that “Zero Hunger” is identified as the 2nd Sustainable Development Goal by the UN and that adequate nourishment is interwoven with almost every goal listed.  However, agriculture has yet to be codified within the UNFCCC framework.

There is an opportunity to address agriculture in COP22

The Paris Agreement, monumental in more ways than one, identifies food security as a priority in the climate agenda. This recognition is emblematic of the necessity to address the foundation for food security – the agricultural sector – in the international climate negotiations.

It is clear from previous negotiations that countries have different priorities and perspectives in considering mitigation versus adaptation.  However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these two goals are not mutually exclusive in practice.

A new EDF analysis of countries’ submissions to the 44th SBSTA (Subsidiary Body on Science and Technological Advice) finds that countries are employing similar agricultural practices in different parts of the world. Several submissions also noted that these practices can have multiple benefits for adaptation, productivity and mitigation.

For example, soil management can increase soil fertility (and therefore productivity) as well as carbon storage in soils. Improvements in livestock such as diet management could both increase productivity and reduce methane emissions. The efficient management and storage of water could also increase resiliency to drought and reduce reliance on irrigation. These are just a few examples of commonly identified agricultural practices that meet both goals of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of emissions.

In addition to common practices, it is also clear that the vast majority of countries, driven by national interest, are committed to taking actions on agriculture in the context of climate. Within countries’ INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions), 80% include agriculture in their mitigation targets and 64% include agriculture in adaptation strategies.

Parallel to the negotiations, the Global Climate Action Agenda will highlight agriculture and food security on November 16th, demonstrating leadership by the Moroccan presidency to advance issues on agriculture at COP22.

The potential way forward

With clear necessity and urgency, a way must be paved for work on agriculture issues within the UNFCCC.  The Paris Agreement, INDCs, and common practices from SBSTA submissions that countries are already implementing could provide a foundation for countries to work together on agriculture. The best outcome of Marrakesh would be a COP decision on agriculture.

International cooperative action on agriculture is in the best interest of all countries due to critical importance of food security, adaptation, and climate stabilization. In addition, international collaboration could facilitate accounting for emissions towards INDCs and accelerate deployment of finance for agriculture.

We hope that negotiators will work constructively together on agriculture inside and outside of the negotiations, especially on areas of common ground such as the practices mentioned above. EDF and our partners will be closely following the agriculture negotiations at COP 22 and meeting with negotiators to discuss how to move forward on agriculture issues in the UNFCCC.

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What happens in Marrakesh now that the Paris Agreement has entered into force?

Marrakesh

Photo credit: Luc Viatour

Friday, November 4, 2016 was a day for the record books: it marked the day that the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, unlocking the Agreement’s legally binding rights and obligations for countries that have joined the agreement. This milestone came almost four years earlier than many expected even just last year. 

Rapid entry into force proves that the diverse political coalition of countries that constructed the Paris Agreement – both developed and developing, large and small – is alive and strong around climate change. It sends a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that governments take the agreement seriously, and that now is the time to ramp up investment in a prosperous, low-carbon future. 

Early entry into force also adds a sense of urgency to the work of the just-opened climate talks in Marrakesh under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP22, from November 7-18. The inaugural session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will take place in conjunction with COP22. 

What to expect at Marrakesh

Countries in Marrakesh will be expected to provide concrete evidence that the world is on track to effectively implement the Paris Agreement.

The goal of the Marrakesh gathering is to maintain the strong momentum on climate action that comes from the trio of climate wins we’ve seen recently: entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the adoption of a market-based-measure to tackle significant climate pollution from airlines, and the phase down of HFC “superpollutant” greenhouse gases. 

To continue that momentum, countries in Marrakesh will be expected to provide concrete evidence that the world is on track to effectively implement the Paris Agreement, in the form of an ambitious workplan to complete the Agreement’s necessary infrastructure. The Agreement provides an inclusive, solid foundation for global climate action, but the “nuts and bolts” of how to implement the Agreement were left to future meetings.

Key implementation tasks that will occupy negotiators in Marrakesh include Finalizing the Paris Agreement’s “enhanced” transparency framework and building an effective ambition mechanism.

Finalizing the Paris Agreement’s “enhanced” transparency framework

Transparency is the backbone of the Paris Agreement: It drives climate action by holding countries accountable to their commitments on action and support. 

But often overlooked are the additional direct domestic benefits of transparency to countries and subnational actors, which helps them to:

  1. understand the scope of the climate challenge;
  2. develop strategies to address it;
  3. assess the extent to which policy interventions are succeeding; and
  4. more easily access resources needed for effective implementation, including via carbon markets.

The Paris Agreement lays out common and legally binding rules that require – for the first time – each country to regularly report on progress they are making in meeting their commitments.  And those reports must go to a panel of experts for technical review. As EDF President Fred Krupp wrote, “It's the environmental version of President Reagan's ‘trust but verify.’”  

The details of the Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework must now be elaborated to ensure that countries demonstrate credibly and publicly how they are making progress against their commitments. Support should be made available to assist countries that need help to meet these new requirements. A variety of climate funds and support programs currently exist that can help developing countries to build the necessary institutional and technical capacity. 

At the same time, nations must now prioritize efforts to develop a set of clear accounting rules that prevent “double counting” of emissions reductions and facilitate the high-integrity emissions trading needed to drive emissions down and investment up. Double counting – applying one ton of emissions reductions towards more than one commitment, a sleight of hand that cheats the atmosphere – is explicitly prohibited by the Paris Agreement no less than six times.

Building an effective ambition mechanism

We know that the commitments pledged by countries thus far are not enough to limit warming below new temperature limits set by the Paris Agreement – “well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels” – let alone enough to meet the Agreement’s aspirational limit of 1.5 degrees.

That’s why the heart of the accord is the process it establishes to periodically review countries’ progress toward meeting their commitments, and to ratchet up ambition over time, beginning with a global assessment (a “facilitative dialogue,” in UN-speak) in 2018 and updates of commitments in 2020.

The Paris Agreement recognizes that cooperation on emissions trading between countries can help drive the ambitious emissions reductions that science demands. Under Article 6, the Agreement encourages the growing use of bottom-up agreements between jurisdictions to link markets for greater efficiency, as California and Quebec have done. Countries that prefer the option of an international structure can wait to utilize the nascent new market mechanism outlined under Article 6.4 of the Agreement – the strong rules and accounting standards necessary for this new approach must also be fleshed out by negotiators in the coming months and years.

Prompt agreement on accounting for market mechanisms under Article 6, including how to practically implement the requirement to avoid double counting of emissions reductions, will help quickly build the infrastructure needed for carbon markets to drive ambition. In particular, the facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 to assess global progress appears to be a good time to provide additional clarity on the tools available under the Paris Agreement to increase ambition. 

What will happen during CMA1 

Although the Paris Agreement specifies that the significant amount of work necessary to build its essential infrastructure must be completed by CMA1, countries are likely to agree a “procedural fix” to give themselves the time necessary to develop the Paris Agreement’s rulebook. For example, Parties could agree to keep CMA1 formally in session rather than gaveling it closed at the end of the COP, extending CMA1 – and the associated deadlines – until perhaps 2018. Countries used a similar fix to minimize procedural wrangling in the successful negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement. Given the Paris Agreement’s surprisingly quick entry into force, it is not surprising that negotiators will need more time to complete the long list of tasks on their plate.

The upshot is that substantive discussions will occur instead in the COP, the APA (the “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement”) and the UNFCCC’s subsidiary bodies, in which all Parties to the UNFCCC can participate. As long as these bodies move promptly to accomplish their “to do” list, keeping discussions under the COP provides an additional benefit to inclusiveness and political “buy-in.” That's because decisionmaking in the CMA is limited to only those Parties to the Paris Agreement, currently slightly more than half of those participating in the UNFCCC, but expected to be nearly equal by 2018. 

The continuing need for national and “minilateral” action

A decade ago, the presumptive approach to climate progress was a global governance structure driven by international institutions such as the U.N. Now, the challenges are more urgent and the landscape is more decentralized. 

"Minilateral" cooperation among groups of countries is emerging as a focal point for climate action. The prospect of “climate clubs” is gaining currency as a vehicle for securing greater investment, market access, and financial stability, and for driving greater ambition in climate action. For example, a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions, or “CCM”, could go faster and farther than the UNFCCC in promoting coordination among carbon markets, ensuring environmental integrity, and ultimately spurring greater ambition in climate action. Robust coalition standards could potentially inform global approaches, complementing and building additional momentum for climate efforts under the UNFCCC.

No major environmental problem is solved with one document. The Paris Agreement provides a solid foundation for cooperation among jurisdictions, but nations recognize that progress on climate depends on implementation at home. It’s time for countries to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the rules, guidance, and domestic policies that will put Paris into practice. 

The significant political will reflected in the entry into force of the Paris Agreement now needs to be translated to building the essential infrastructure for implementation. The world is watching.

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