At COP22, leaders try to put Paris Climate Agreement into action
09 November 2016 | Mitigation
Climate negotiators began working Monday to transform the landmark Paris Climate Agreement into an action plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions and help societies adapt to a warming world.
The annual U.N. climate change conference takes place this year in Marrakech, Morocco — an apt location for the high-stakes negotiations. African countries are expected to suffer some of the worst effects of climate change if the world keeps burning fossil fuels and clearing forests at today's pace.
This round of talks will be far less dramatic than the Paris summit in 2015, but no less important. Delegates will meet for two weeks to work on rules for implementing the agreement, which officially entered into force on Nov. 4. Negotiation topics will include how countries should measure and report emissions so they can be held accountable for meeting their goals.
Hakima El Haité, Morocco's environment minister, said this year's negotiations will help give teeth and "credibility" to the climate targets.
"We can ratify the Paris agreement, but so what?" she told Mashable during a September visit to New York City.
"What does it mean to the people who are suffering from hunger, or have no access to drinking water? What does it mean to people who are threatened by sea level rise?"
Decisions made in Morocco this month will help determine how quickly countries start transitioning to cleaner energy sources and reducing planet-warming emissions, she said.
African agriculture, the continent's main industry, is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
"We can't wait," El Haité said. "All of us are responsible for what is happening around the world in developing countries. Action is required now."
The Morocco meeting comes amid uncertainty over how the U.S. presidential election will affect the global agreement.
Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, has vowed to "cancel" the Paris deal if elected president on Tuesday. Democratic contender Hillary Clinton said she would push for more cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury.
On Monday, U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa sought to assure delegates in Marrakech that "no politician or citizen, no business manager or investor" could halt the world's shift toward a "low-emission, resilient society."
So far, 100 countries have formally joined the Paris agreement, including China and the United States — the world's top two polluters — plus India and the European Union.
The deal commits countries to limiting global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Global temperatures have already risen about 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, since the industrial revolution as greenhouse gas emissions soar to new heights.
Already, climate change has been linked to severe droughts, extreme flooding and changes in seasonal rainfall patterns across Africa.
As harvests wither, families will increasingly be forced to leave their farms, potentially creating ethnic conflicts, spreading diseases and straining local food and water supplies, said Mohamed Ait-Kadi, president of the General Council of Agricultural Development, a think tank within Morocco's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
"Africa is already disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change due to its over-dependence on agriculture," he told Mashable by phone.
African nations are working to minimize some of these risks by helping farmers adapt to the changing climate. Adaptation for African Agriculture, a new initiative supported by 25 countries, is leading projects to improve soil management, control water use on farms, develop climate insurance and other programs.
For example, in Nigeria, a project from the company Babban Gona is turning thousands of subsistence farmers into sustainable entrepreneurs with agronomy and business training and tailored loans.
Those efforts could not only boost food supplies in Africa but also help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, both by slowing deforestation and ensuring more plants can absorb carbon dioxide.
Ait-Kadi called on countries gathered in Marrakech this month to provide more financial and technical support for agricultural initiatives in Africa.
"If climate change mitigation contributes to the climate stability of our planet, then agricultural adaptation, especially in Africa, will contribute to its political stability," he said.