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COP22: What's next for international climate action?

The 22nd UN Climate Summit, COP22, was held in Marrakech in November 2016. The COP represents the major global climate event, gathering world leaders together to discuss progress and actions towards tackling climate change. The conference has come under criticism in the past for failing to achieve practical outcomes. However, in December 2015, 195 countries reached a historic agreement – the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal - the Paris Agreement. Here we review the outcomes of the 22nd Climate Summit. 

Fast facts about UNFCCC / COP: 

  • The United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit

  • Overall objective of the Convention: to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system”

  • There are 197 Parties to the Convention

The key points of the Paris Agreement
  • A goal of limiting global temperatures to “well below” 2°C above preindustrial levels (which translates to a 40% -70% reduction in emissions) and working towards limiting to 1.5°C (70% – 95% reduction). There is a global movement (#1o5c) campaigning for a 1.5°C  limit.
  • Global emissions should peak as soon as possible and rapidly decline thereafter, reaching zero emissions sometime this century.
  • All parties must make nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and pursue measures to achieve them. There will be reviews of countries’ progress every 5 years, with a first interim review due in 2018.
  • Developed countries must provide at least $100 billion per year in climate aid to developing nations by 2020, and developing countries are encouraged to make their own climate pledges if they can afford it.
  • Loss and damage: approaches need to be developed to help vulnerable countries cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
  • There are calls for a new mechanism similar to the Clean Development Mechanism, enabling emission reductions in one country to be counted toward another country’s NDC.
Highlights & Outcomes of COP22
  • 35 decisions were adopted, most of which relate to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
  • 2018 set as deadline for developing rules for the implementation of the Agreement.
  • The Adaptation Fund, created in 2001, will serve the Agreement.
  • The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 48 developing countries, declared their intention to switch to 100 % renewable energy between 2030 and 2050.

 U.S. Elections

At COP22 the main objective was to discuss details of the Paris Agreement and how to move it forward. With the U.S. election coinciding with the event, the big question hanging over the conference was how the election of Donald Trump will affect climate action. Trump has publicly denied climate change and set out his intention during his campaign to cancel the Paris Agreement and save the coal industry [1].

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out at the conference to give his reassurance that the US would keep to its promises:  “This is bigger than one person, one president...We have to figure out how we’re going to stop this” [2]. Other key players, such as China and the EU spoke out to confirm their commitments to the Paris Agreement, whatever happens with the U.S.[3]

At COP22, Ecuador, Venezuela and other developing nations initiated a process pushing to screen participants for conflict of interest, with regards to fossil fuel representatives being present at climate discussions. A petition, led by Corporate Accountability International was accepted by the U.S.[4]



1. McGrath, M. (2016) Donald Trump would 'cancel' Paris climate deal. BBC News, 27 May. 

2. Nelson, A. and Harvey, F. (2016)  John Kerry: We will fight to keep US in the Paris climate deal, The Guardian, 16 November. 

3. Withnall, A. (2016) COP22: Who is left to save the world if America pulls out of Paris Agreement? The Independent, 17 November.

4. Slezak, M. (2016) Marrakech climate talks: US accepts petition calling for fossil fuel lobbyists to be excluded. The Guardian, 16 November.