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Parliamentary Meeting at UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh

A Parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference jointly organised by the IPU and the Moroccan Parliament, brought together some 300 parliamentarians from all over the world on 13th November 2016 in Marrakech, one week into the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22).

The aim was to involve parliamentarians worldwide in promoting awareness of the issues being discussed at COP22, so that they could better hold their Governments to account for delivering on commitments made at COP21 in Paris in December 2015. The UK Parliament was represented under BGIPU auspices by Graham Stringer MP from the House of Commons and Baroness Northover from the House of Lords.

COP21 has been seen as a historic, ground-breaking agreement, as it sought through legally binding commitments to keep global warming below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration that this should be below 1.5 degrees. By the time of the COP22 meeting in Marrakech 107 countries had ratified this treaty, so that it had now come into force. COP22 focused particularly on implementation.

The IPU/Moroccan Parliament meeting opened with speeches representing the two Houses of the Moroccan Parliament, from Mr Salaheddine Mezouar, Foreign Minister of Morocco and Chair of COP22, and Mr Saber Chowdhury, President of the IPU.

COP22 was being held in Africa, since Africa was the most threatened region. Average global increases in temperature had regional variations and in Africa this variation was likely to bring increases of double that global average. Food insecurity, more frequent extreme events and the displacement of peoples could therefore be expected. It would be impossible to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without tackling climate change.

Sessions on climate change negotiations since COP21 in Paris, and on shifting from ratification to implementation followed, including a presentation from Alina Averchenkova from the UK’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the London School of Economics. Links between climate change and conflict were explored, together with the social impacts of climate change, with a particular emphasis on gender, since the poorest and most vulnerable are likely to be disproportionately affected.

It was emphasised that what was required was finance, adaptation, and capacity building. Good projects were needed for the finance available – at least $100bn from 2020.  The importance of enlisting public support through their benefitting directly from investment in renewables was stressed. The example of Germany was cited, where investment in renewables was paying off not only in job-creation, but also in the public earning through their own production of renewable energy. Germany’s pioneering technology now enabled other countries to take these areas forward.

It was emphasised that there was a need for domestic legislation so that what a country was doing was more apparent. Such domestic legislation needed to include measurement, reporting and verification. Legislative frameworks needed teeth. Developed countries should look at financial, technical, and capacity-building support for developing countries.

In discussions, concern was expressed about the likely role of the new Trump presidency. Although Mr Trump had stated that he wished to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, it was emphasised that he could not do so within three years of the US ratifying it, and then had to give a further year’s notice.

Running as a theme through the meeting was the emphasis that parliamentarians had key roles to play in ensuring governments were held to account. They must ensure that laws were being adopted that delivered what had been agreed at COP21.

An outcome document was agreed that welcomed the international community’s “growing awareness of the reality of climate change, its consequences and its potential human and economic costs”; reaffirmed that the Paris Agreement, signed by 174 states “represents a strong and almost unanimous commitment from the international community”; reaffirmed “the crucial role of parliaments” in the implementation of the Paris Agreement objectives; called on those states which had not yet ratified the Paris Agreement to do so; and called for the following actions to be prioritised – delivering nationally determined contributions, mobilizing funds, enhancing adaptation, and promoting technological development. The outcome document also called on legislators to work towards developing the national legislation, guidelines and oversight mechanisms “necessary for the effective implementation” of the Paris Agreement, with a number of specific recommendations across the whole area.

Implementing the COP21 Paris agreement was the major challenge set at the Marrakech COP22 and the parliamentary meeting alongside for both Governments and Parliaments globally.

Baroness Northover