Few expected last year’s Paris climate pact to come into force so quickly. So when it did on Friday 4 November-- just days before the start of COP22 diplomats from nearly 200 nations suddenly found themselves under intense pressure to translate its planet-saving promise into action. And quickly.
The Paris pact was ground-breaking because it established a legally binding action plan for how the world would cut its carbons missions by 2020. Yet going into Marrakesh, it was obvious that least developed countries were far from ready.
One of the aims of COP22 were thus to help them turn their national climate plans into concrete policies.
Starting with their cities.
By 2030,climate-induced disasters will cost cities around the world 300 billion euros, up from 240 billion euros today, according to the World Bank.
The urban poor are particularly vulnerable. During the COP 22 negotiations, hundreds of African mayors gathered to make their voices heard.
Lehady Vinagnon Soglo, mayor of Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou, still fears reliving the devastation caused by the 2010 floods.
“If nothing is done, in a very short period of time we’re going to have to face a lot of problems,” he says.
Like his counterparts, he came to Marrakesh looking for partnership opportunities.
Cooperation between Southern countries was a key feature at the climate talks, illustrated by the first ever Africa Action Summit.
Dozens of African leaders from Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and beyond agreed to work together to fight global warming by pooling all of their resources together.
“We are part of the solution”, says Swaziland’s Deputy ambassador to Ethiopia, Mahlaba Ali Mamba.
“We have not caused climate change and yet we are bearing the brunt,” Mary Goretti Kitutu, Uganda’s Environment Minister, points out.
Women and climate change
Climate injustice is at last being addressed, according to Ireland’s former President Mary Robinson.
“Climate change is undermining basic human rights all over the world,” with women at the forefront, she says.
“This convention on climate change was gender blind and we’ve had to work very hard to get gender into it, and we still have to work very hard to get gender into the implementation of the Paris agreement.”
The adoption of a new agreement to better integrate gender into climate policies was welcomed by female stakeholders.
“What we missed in Paris, we’re getting it now,” Lakshmi Puri, UN Women’s Executive Deputy Director added.
For Grassroots campaigner Mariam Diallo Drame though, the fight against climate change remains a luxury for African women, who are still battling with everyday survival.
“The most important thing for us is to eat, we have so many challenges you know regarding poverty, health, education, simple social demands…this climate justice and gender and climate is going to work for the West, but not for us.”
This imbalance was felt particularly in negotiations to do with climate finance.
Indications on how to distrubte 90 billion euros a year to poor, climate-vulnerable nations, were not included of the final Marrakesh declaration.
The uncertainty triggered by Donald Trump’s election means that there could be a potential gap to fill in the Global Climate Fund if he withdraws the US from the Paris pact.
Despite this, negotiators at Marrakesh did succeed in bringing the date for finishing the Paris rulebook forward to 2018 instead of 2020.
This two-year window frame will allow developing countries to better prepare their projects to attract investors. And behind the scenes, local actors continue to work to reduce deforestation and improve their agricultural methods to stave off the threat of global warming. Silent heroes who may not be in the limelight but who are just as crucial.