COP22 begins next week, and the conference is receiving little love and attention from media compared to the high-spirited lead up to COP21 in Paris last year. But arguably COP22 is just as important for the international climate agenda. Here’s why:
- Approximately half of the 193 signatory parties have not officially joined the Paris agreement. Certainly, the agreement did enter into force much faster than expected (crossing the 55 party, 55% emissions threshold earlier this month), but in order for the agreement to reach its goal of staying “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, every country needs to formalize their commitments so that their “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”(INDC) are no longer “intended”, but instead a definite reality. COP22 could be another boost in momentum to do so. Or, if signatory countries don’t like the specifics agreed upon in this conference, it could threaten to stall the ratification process for some displeased countries.
- But even if a substantial level of ratification is achieved, the devil is in the details. COP22’s goal is to look at the broad strokes that make up the Paris Agreement and figure out how to make it feasible. Some of these details, like the Green Climate Fund, may be contentious, but extremely important to achieving emission goals. Notably, many developing countries listed dual commitments for 2030 dependent upon the level of international aid they receive. For example, in Jordan’s INDCs they said they could reduce greenhouse gases by 1.5% on their own, but they committed to reducing an additional 12.5% by 2030 conditional on receiving enough international climate aid. So a reliable Green Climate Fund with sufficient funds is essential to a significant proportion of developing countries emission reductions – and crucial in order to stay below 2 degrees Celsius.
- COP22 will also need to figure out the mechanisms for transferring billions of dollars annually in climate financing, especially to countries with corrupt governments. Even North Korea signed the Paris Agreement and conditionally committed to reducing 32.25% of emissions by 2030 contingent upon international support. But many countries across the world, including the US, have debated the consequences of providing aid to North Korea, even for food assistance during times of extreme famine. It will be a large task for the international community to find a way to ensure funds are used appropriately.
- Finally, COP22 will be looking for a generally accepted way to monitor and report emissions. Many countries across the world value national privacy, but the future success of the Paris Agreement relies on at least partial emissions transparency to reliably track progress. Significantly, China and the US have shown unprecedented levels of cooperation for the Paris Agreement, which will hopefully bring a mutually-accepted monitoring practice for transparent and private governments alike.
In all, the international community at COP22 has a lot of work to do, so give them some well-deserved love.