Halfway Through Marrakesh Climate Talks: Reflections on Continued International Diplomacy and Climate Leadership

November 12, 2016

The Paris Agreement established the international consensus on the need for universal goals to address climate change and will continue to aid in pushing forward international developments towards those goals. Working towards those goals have become economic and pragmatic realities, despite political winds. In Marrakesh, despite a quick entry into force of the Paris Agreement, we are seeing the difficulties that were expected with respect to swift implementation of those goals because it’s hard work to ensure continued consensus. Of course, it would be ideal if all political winds were pushing forward smart policy and sending consistent and certain signals. But we don’t live in an ideal world.

As I wrote last year from Paris, the international progress was significant and inspiring. I began attending UNFCCC Conference of the Parties meetings in 2007. At that time, on the road to Copenhagen in 2009 and in the immediate years following the failure at Copenhagen, it was unclear whether the international community could come together with one voice. It did that in 2015. And although the hard work of implementation of the Paris Agreement continue and decisions on details will not be easy. The momentum and optimism I felt last year in Paris continues in Marrakesh. Renewable energy is economically competitive. Investors are understanding the need to question on climate risk and see short-term goals in light of medium and longer-term risk. Developing country parties are accessing support and resources to deploy innovative projects that support the Sustainable Development Goals and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Perhaps I’m seeing the glass half-full, but I don’t think we have a choice. I also think there is continued momentum in the private sector and there are clear social and business of imperatives to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable, and that can still be done. This momentum includes:

  • advances in public company disclosure
  • financing from the Green Climate Fund— which will support mitigation and adaptation projects to de-risk and leverage private investment, to the tune of $10B pledged for the fund
  • smart project development, technology deployment and cross-border collaboration
  • development of climate risk-management strategies and business adaptation and resiliency planning in a pragmatic, risk-management framework

These and other developments mean that the tasks of integrating climate risk and responsibilities into business decision-making, and looking for opportunities to support the low-carbon and climate-resilient economy will continue in earnest. The UNFCCC process and the Paris Agreement are enablers, to be sure. That’s why we are here in Marrakesh, to learn and think about ways to support both the international process and the private-sector movement—both integral to the success of efforts to address climate-related risks and opportunities.

More to come…