By Caroline Dunning and Joshua Talib
“Two thirds of proven resources in oil, gas and coal need to be left undeveloped for a 2°C pathway.”
Michael Lazarus, Centre Director and Senior Scientist for Stockholm Environment Institute.
Today was a day of exploring COP22 and all of the different components that make up this UN climate change conference. Based just south of Marrakech City Centre, the largest temporary conference centre was built to host 197 member states and over 25,000 delegates over the two weeks. As a brief summary, this post includes interviews with official UN observers, a visit to a US press conference, a quick visit to the public arena of COP22 and Skype interviews between fellow PhD students in Reading with OSS leader, Lilia Benzid Ghachem and Katie Thomas, Bernie Sanders’ Energy Political Advisor.
The first couple of hours I spent interviewing a few official UN observers of the conference. First was Clare Nullis, a WMO communications leader responsible for the publication of official documents. The WMO is a key organisation to the publication of science from leading University departments, national meteorological services and research organisations. A recent prominent report from the WMO includes information stating that the last five years have been the warmest on record since records began (BBC news articles on recent WMO report).
My conversation with Clare identified the differences between the last three COP meetings. COP20 in Lima, Peru brought a “build up of momentum” for acting on climate change that marked a “time for building bridges”. Followed on from that came COP21 in Paris, with “a sense of we can do it and we have to do it”. A key turning point for Paris in Clare’s eyes was the platform sharing between developed and developing nations. In particular Clare recalls the U.S. foreign secretary, John Kerry, taking part in diplomatic discussions with developing nations. Then came Marrakech, the COP of Action, and so far Clare identifies that the emphasis of discussions and debates has been brought onto how are we going to achieve the Paris Agreement. Finally, Claire emphasised a key message which has been discussed in many side events and conversations, that ensuring that information “is made accessible to the local community”. In my opinion, from my observations at COP22, a lot more effort is needed to bring climate research, adaptation strategies and future predictions to the individuals most affected.
My next three conversations were quite entertaining and from a range of backgrounds. The first was with Fredrick Mhina Mngube, an East African Community member from Tanzania working on improving the climate-resilience of local communities. He explained to me the influence of climate change on wildlife migration corridors and how the interaction of invasive species becomes incompatible for humans and other wildlife. For example, the movement of large mammals destroying vital cropland due to a reduction in freshwater supplies. With Fredrick we also discussed progress of adaptation methods to support livelihoods affected by increasing water temperatures of freshwater sources (thereby decreasing the local fish population), and reducing freshwater levels. He stated how in some regions the implementation of fishing regulations during breeding times along with the construction of local fishing ponds acted as successful adaptation methods.
My next two interviews became a combined debate on the viability of renewable energies, with Diane Blanco, originally from Mexico and supporter of encouraging sustainable transport use, arguing that renewable energies need to be used for the Paris Agreement to be reached. Meanwhile Massimo Pieri, an entrepreneur from Italy, arguing that we should accept our reliance on non-renewables and that renewable electricity isn’t efficient enough for demand. Instead we should aim for infrastructures that are solely reliant on electricity.
Following on from my interviews we then attended the US Climate Action Network press conference (as you can imagine particularly interesting after the US election result). There it was emphasised that local- and state-level climate mitigation actions can still take place (even after the election result), and that many Americans will still work hard to tackle this environmental issue.
After lunch we went into the “green zone”, a zone open to the public containing organisations advertising their mitigation and adaptation strategies against climate change. It was huge! Enormous! Fortunately we still managed to find the United Kingdom stand, promoting new sustainable British technology including Pavegen (generating electricity from footsteps) and taps that reduce water consumption. Other exhibition stands (some the size of lecture halls) included climate finance corporations, agriculture services and even Facebook!
Finally at 3pm we attended the side event fossil fuel supply and climate policy: key steps to enhance ambition. More about this talk and the following interview we had with Bernie Sanders’ Energy Political Advisor, Katie Thomas, can be found on our partner webpage. On a closing note, we had an engaging conversation with our OSS (Sahara and Sahel Observatory) partner, Lilia Benzid Ghachem. She argued that for Marrakech to be a real COP of Action, we need to hear about the number of individuals affected by anthropogenic greenhouse gas release, rather than just the average global temperature rise. Whilst political discussions need a quantifiable target, an emphasis of the number of livelihoods affected due to climate change needs to take place, so that action at this COP can be even greater.