Katelyn Miller ’18

Kaleb Mazurek ’18

Our first day at the Conference of Parties in Marrakech, Morocco, was exciting yet overwhelming. It was our first time attending an official UN event, and neither of us knew what to expect. In the morning, we arrived at the COP22 village, which sits next to the Marrakech royal palace. As we arrived, zero-emission busses dropped off attendees, who piled into the main entrance to receive their accreditations. Over 30,000 people are expected to attend the conference over the course of the next two weeks. We went through security, claimed our accreditations, and set off to see what COP events were all about.

Neither of us have ever been to a conference like this, and neither of us are environmental studies majors. The reasons we’re here are good timing and Macalester’s status as an observing institution at UN events. This semester we’re studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco, as participants in SIT’s program Morocco: Migration and Transnational Identity. For the last month of our program, we conduct research for an independent project on a topic of our choosing. We’re lucky enough to be able to attend COP22 in order to inform our projects, as well as to introduce ourselves to environmental studies and climate negotiations. We are attending COP without a fine-tuned agenda and have chosen to attend talks about topics of interest to us.

We spent our first hours familiarizing ourselves with the village layout. It’s a long rectangular complex, with tents on both sides that house large meeting rooms and pavilions. In the pavilions countries present their green initiatives and host themed panels. We walked through the long line of tents, collecting event schedules from the Nordic Group, Morocco, the United States, South Korea, and the European Union. These schedules detailed panels over the next 12 days, touching on a wide range of subjects particular to each delegation’s agenda. Some pavilions we visited had exciting graphics, flashing lights, and videos. We got the impression that each country was trying to show off all that it was doing in the fight against climate change.

In the afternoon, we attended a “side event” in the blue zone, hosted by Tunisia, called Market Mechanisms under the Paris Agreement—the Role of Article 6. There speakers were from Germany, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. The panelists spoke in acronyms and used technical language from the Paris Agreements, and some of what they said went entirely over our heads. Yet the general content of the panel included a discussion on the necessary steps to bolster the role of carbon markets in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and the specific ways the respective countries understood the importance of carbon markets within their national context.

The UNFCCC is calling this year’s conference “the COP of action.” Although a diverse range of topics will be covered at COP, the priority will be to “act” in order to nuance the generalities set forth in the Paris agreement, such as specifics around financial support and nationally determined contributions (NDC). Moreover, COP22 presents an important opportunity for the African continent to make its need and concerns heard. Delegations from the African continent will focus on attaining funds for renewable energy projects and modes of technology transfers. COP22 is opportune for “developing” countries to assert their needs.

The bottom line is that the reductions in CO2 emissions pledges in the Paris agreement are not satisfactory to meet the two-degree celsius threshold. According to a UN Environmental Emissions Gap report, the current pledges under the Paris agreement, if achieved, will still result in a 2.9-3.4 C temperature rise by the end of the century. Moreover, it is estimated that around $1.3 trillion per year until 2050 will need to be invested in order to achieve 1.5-2.0 degree temperature increase (according to “Towards a Workable and Effective Climate Regime,” CEPR Press). We hope this reality is addressed and acknowledged by delegations and high officials in this year’s COP.

November 9 2016

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