Meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, representatives from 196 countries and the European Union have reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, which calls on the world's nations to keep global warming significantly below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). "We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority," states the proclamation.
"Now is not the time to fall back," says EESI Executive Director Carol Werner. "In all likelihood, 2016 will, unfortunately, be the hottest year ever recorded, beating 2015 and 2014. The Arctic was 20 degrees Celsius (36 F) warmer than average for October, and its sea ice coverage was at a record low for the month. Unless countries set more ambitious targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which would have devastating environmental consequences."
International cooperation on climate change action is expected to continue even if the United States, under a new Trump administration, exits the Paris Agreement. According to Carol Werner, "By issuing the Marrakech Action Proclamation, the 196 participating nations made clear: 'We'll always have Paris.'" China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has already indicated it will continue to show leadership on the issue, if only because air pollution from fossil fuels also causes the alarming levels of smog affecting many Chinese cities. China, where renewable energy is booming and a nation-wide carbon market will be launched next year, appears likely to meet its Paris pledge of peaking its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The 47 members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which brings together the nations most at risk from extreme weather and rising sea levels (including Bangladesh, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia) have pledged to fully transition to renewable energy as soon as possible.
Though President-elect Trump and his advisors have expressed climate skepticism and may seek to reverse many of President Obama's environmental policies, U.S. negotiators are confident that the United States will meet its Paris engagements because its states and private sector are stepping up to the plate. California Governor Jerry Brown has pledged to “continue to confront the existential threat of our time—devastating climate change,” and the Golden State is examining whether it could join the Paris Agreement as a sub-national party. The nine northeastern states, including New York, which have had a regional carbon market for years, are also moving to cut their emissions further.
Over 360 companies and investors have urged the incoming administration to stay engaged in the international climate action process, and 154 of the largest U.S. firms—employing nearly 11 million people and representing $4.2 trillion in annual revenue—committed to reducing their carbon emissions when they signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. A reliable majority of Americans, from both sides of the aisle, support climate change action.
Though there is uncertainty regarding the incoming administration's commitment to climate action, the U.S. delegation in Marrakech released a detailed plan, the Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization, which shows how the United States can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent compared to 2005 levels by the middle of the century while creating jobs and boosting growth. This is in line with the existing U.S. commitment to reduce its emissions 26-28 percent by 2025.
The 2050 strategy features three main prongs: 1) transitioning to a low-carbon energy system by promoting energy efficiency and deploying clean energy and low-carbon fuels in all sectors of the economy; 2) sequestering carbon through better forest and soil management and the development of carbon removal technologies; and 3) reducing emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons.
The U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization is meant to serve as a template to help other countries develop longer-term climate strategies. Canada and Mexico also released strategies for deep reductions in their carbon emissions by 2050, and Germany is expected to follow suit shortly. China, India, Norway, and the United Kingdom are developing or will soon start developing similar plans.
For more information:
- Marrakech Action Proclamation
- Advance Text for the Conference of the Parties (COP22) under the Paris Agreement
- United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization
- The Marrakech Vision (outcome document of the Climate Vulnerable Forum at COP22)
- Business Backs Low-Carbon USA
- American Business Act on Climate Pledge