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How the Paris Agreement and Climate Talks in Marrakech Can Help Accelerate Ambition

As we approach this year’s climate conference in Marrakech, all eyes should be on the role COP22 can play in accelerating ambition.

One of the core components of the Paris Agreement is the creation of an “ambition mechanism” that brings all countries back to the table every five years to take stock and increase the ambition of their national climate actions. This is essential because, even with national climate actions submitted ahead of the Paris Agreement last year (known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), we are still falling short of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 – 2 degrees Celsius (2.7-3.6 degrees F), the limits science says it necessary for preventing the worst effects of climate change. We also are missing major opportunities to take climate action that can provide substantial economic and development benefits.

Recognizing the urgency of action, countries agreed at Paris to come back in 2018 to take stock of initial progress toward the collective goals in the Agreement and to inform new or updated NDCs put forward by 2020. After 2020, this will be followed by “global stocktakes” every five years starting in 2023.

In 2018, the first stock-taking exercise, referred to as a “Facilitative Dialogue,” represents a crucial opportunity to encourage countries to enhance their NDCS in order to close the emissions gap even further and to seize opportunities for climate action. Given the limited time between now and 2018, countries need to start discussing how the Facilitative Dialogue will be conducted. This is one of the most important conversations to be had at COP22.

Also occurring at COP22 this year will be a review of progress countries have made towards their 2020 climate targets made back in 2010 at COP16 in Cancun. This review will look at further opportunities to enhance the ambition of pre-2020 mitigation efforts, including the financial resources, technology development and transfer and capacity-building support. The success of this review can greatly enhance trust among countries and generate momentum ahead of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue.

Why Is 2018 a Critical Moment?

We know countries will have to slash their emissions in order to rein in warming. The earlier we act the better. Committing over the next four years to more ambitious climate action will be essential to improve our chances of limiting warming. Hence, the importance of not waiting until the 2023 global stocktake to seize such opportunities.

The 2018 Facilitative Dialogue represents the best opportunity for countries to increase the ambition of their current NDCs ahead of 2020 after taking stock of collective progress towards the long-term mitigation goal under the Paris Agreement of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the century.

How Can the Facilitative Dialogue Accelerate Ambition?

At this stage, there are not yet parameters for the Facilitative Dialogue, which means it can be designed in a manner that best serves this important purpose. Its objectives could include the following:

  • Take stock of collective efforts according to science. The IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emissions pathways should provide the driving force of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue. Enhanced action should be guided by science, not by what others are doing or what’s considered an easy lift.
  • Provide an opportunity to “name and fame.” The efforts of front runners should be highlighted, incentivizing others towards increased action and galvanizing domestic actors.
  • Identify lessons learned. Parties can begin by sharing challenges and obstacles for implementation and for raising ambition, as well as providing examples of what has worked well in the past to encourage transformational action or activities.
  • Be forward-looking. The 2018 Facilitative Dialogue should be framed as a space to highlight opportunities for and the benefits of collective action. A discussion oriented around benefits and opportunities has the greatest potential to motivate an increase in mitigation efforts.
  • Link climate action to sustainable development priorities. Highlight potential opportunities in specific sectors to pursue climate action in tandem with development priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals. This should involve engagement by development, planning and finance ministries, among others, expanding governmental participation.
  • Connect the dots. Utilize civil society and research institutions to collect, synthesize and assess progress to feed into technical sessions; leverage the actions of businesses, cities and regions to help spur national governments; and use international and regional bodies outside of the UNFCCC to help countries deliver on their commitments.

What Can COP22 Deliver?

COP22 should start a clear process for countries to discuss what the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue is. This process could be formal, through clear mandates, or informal, through empowering the UNFCCC Secretariat and COP Presidencies. Regardless, given the limited time between now and 2018, COP22 is the moment to kick-start this process.

To help set this in motion, COP22 could take some initial steps:

  1. Invite Parties and non-Party stakeholders to share their views in early 2017 on how they think the2018 Facilitative Dialogue could be conducted. For example, whether it should be a single event or represent a process over 2018 including multiple events both technical and political and what information will be necessary to feed into the discussions.
  2. Request an informal multi-stakeholder workshop early next year to begin an exchange of views and develop a path forward for 2018.
  3. Request a synthesis or “opportunity report” to be produced early in 2018 to serve as a key input to the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue. This could focus on highlighting opportunities for climate action, primarily drawing on the reports and findings of various UNFCCC bodies and processes.
  4. Call for a climate summit, involving countries and non-state actors, to be held in 2018.

Ultimately, what will be needed is a way to shape the 2018 moment so that it delivers stronger action as well as economic and development opportunities. COP22 can help lay the foundation for this important moment.

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