IF last year’s climate talks in Paris saw UN member states designing a (climate-friendly) engine, this year in Marrakesh they have been tinkering with it, figuring out how to bring it up to speed.
Despite the setback of the US presidential elections that delivered the White House to climate change denialist Donald Trump, countries attending the just-ended talks in Morocco were at least united in purpose.
But the task ahead is daunting. In Paris, the parties committed to a long-term goal of curbing global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The more aspirational 1.5 degree goal seems further out of reach with every passing year.
If the US, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, walks away, it will only become more difficult.
2016 is poised to become the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record set in 2015. In vulnerable parts of the world, the impacts of climate change are already major drivers of humanitarian crises.
“We are witnessing first-hand how climate change is heaping poverty on top of poverty and making development harder and more expensive,” said Tracy Carty, Oxfam’s climate lead. “In Africa alone this year, we’ve seen an additional 40 million people facing hunger because of climate change and El Niño.”
The two-week meeting in Marrakesh marked the start of a process meant to bring all the countries up to speed on climate action – linked also to progress on economic development and poverty eradication for vulnerable countries.
For now, diplomats at the climate change conference could only sketch a solution to some of the most pressing issues. Money, inevitably, is part of the problem.
Delegates from Africa, vulnerable small island states, Asia, and other developing regions came to Marrakesh asking rich nations to ramp up their contributions for climate adaptation. People in coastal cities need sea walls to stave off rising tides; farmers in arid regions need to move to find fresh water; and rolling out drought-resistant crops is not free.
The UN Environment Programme estimates that adaptation is going to cost between $280 and $500 billion per year by 2050 in developing countries alone.