Marrakesh climate conference: Campaigners react with 'extreme disappointment' over lack of progress

‘This year’s inaction brings us one step closer to a future with a climate that is incompatible with dignified life’

Will Worley
Saturday 19 November 2016 13:03 GMT
A member of the delegation plays with a giant air globe outside the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh yesterday
A member of the delegation plays with a giant air globe outside the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh yesterday

Campaigners have expressed “extreme disappointment” at the outcome of the United Nations climate change summit in Marrakesh, saying the nations most vulnerable to the effects of a warming planet.

The Paris conference last year was widely regarded as a success, but this was based largely on promises to tackle the problem. Marrakesh was seen as the event at which those pledges would be turned into action.

The planet has already warmed by 1ºC and at Paris it was agreed to try to limit this to as close to 1.5ºC as possible to avoid “severe, pervasive and irreversible” impacts.

Yet environmental campaigners said the Morocco summit was again heavy on rhetoric and light on real progress, with rich countries failing to do enough to help the developing world.

The recent election of Donald Trump, who has previously called global warming a “hoax”, has raised fears that the US’s climate promises could be withdrawn.

Isabel Kreisler, of Oxfam, said not enough money was being given to the world’s poorest countries to help them adapt to changes that are already happening because of global warming.

Climate change is affecting poor states in Africa and Asia much more than the developed world, which built its wealth on the fossil fuels that caused the problem.

“We saw a stubborn refusal from developed country ministers and negotiators to fill the adaptation finance gap and face the fact that the [Paris] Agreement doesn’t fully protect lives that will suffer the most from climate change," Ms Kreisler said.

“Adaptation finance is not just an abstract numbers game. It’s about providing women farmers in Africa with seeds to plant drought-resistant crops and feed their families; it’s about building seawalls so millions who live in coastal areas survive rising sea levels.”

Ms Kreisler called for developed countries to “live up to their end of the bargain”.

“Millions of people facing extreme and erratic weather can’t afford to keep waiting,” she said.

Lidy Nacpil, of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, said: “At the end of these two weeks we just want to express our extreme disappointment that no clear and concrete increases in climate finance pledges have been put forward by developed country governments.

“We’ve heard so much talk about leveraging private sector funds to address climate finance needs, but private sector involvement is not a substitute for public finance.

“Substantive amounts of public finance are urgently needed – this is especially true for adapting to climate change and addressing the impacts on communities.

“In Marrakech, all the developed countries did was try to evade and postpone their responsibilities, insisting on highly questionable methods for calculating their financial contributions to mask the paltry reality."

And Andrew Norton, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, said: “The outcome of the UN climate talks means that the world’s poorest people in the most vulnerable countries will have to continue their wait for another two years before substantive decisions are made on how the Paris Agreement is put into action.”

Mr Norton also reflected Oxfam’s reservations about the “disappointing” progress on climate finance.

“The main obstacle is the lack of funding available to poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change,” he said. “It is vital that developed countries provide this finance to the poorest countries.”

The election of Mr Trump cast a shadow over the summit. As one of the biggest producers of emissions and the most powerful nation on earth, US leadership was crucial to the success of the Paris Agreement. But the President-elect has signalled his intention to withdraw from the pact.

However, there were also signs that much of the world remains committed to climate action.

The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 111 states, most recently the UK, and countries have overall been supportive – at least in rhetoric.

And Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, hailed the progress at the Marrakech summit, known as COP22.

“The strength, the support for and the robustness of the Paris Agreement was furthered underlined, with nine more ratifications received at the UN in New York and the promise of many more to come," she said.

“Nations reaffirmed that the agreement is in their national interests and a key catalyst to a better, more prosperous future for their citizens.”

But young delegates to the event were left disappointed.

Max Forshaw, 19, said: “At COP22, the lack of urgency has further condemned young people, future generations and the world’s most vulnerable to food insecurity, water scarcity, extreme weather events and climate induced conflict. As young people, we will live with the consequences of these negotiations.

“This year’s inaction brings us one step closer to a future with a climate that is incompatible with dignified life.”

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