COP 22: Looking Back and Forging Ahead

This year’s round of UN climate negotiations have officially come to a close, as six hours of overtime negotiations ended around 2AM on Saturday morning. While progress was made in advancing the implementation of the Paris Agreement, this “COP of action” hardly lived up to it’s name. Parties agreed to be inclusive, transparent, and open in future negotiations. However, most of the concrete decisions regarding climate finance were handed off to the technical subsidiary bodies to outline in future “intersessionals.” Timelines for individual countries to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (that is, the individual plans submitted by each country to reduce their carbon footprint) have been left for the next COP. And the specifics around financing for adaptation initiatives have been delayed until 2017.

climate-marchUnfortunately, this COP will be overshadowed by the results of the American election, as rampant speculation about President-elect Trump’s climate agenda cast a pall over any progress made. Yet despite this, the negotiations forged ahead, and other important international events unfolded at this global summit. Most notably, the 47 member countries of the Climate Vulnerable Forum pledged to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050. This is a truly commendable commitment by developing countries – including Costa Rica, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Bangladesh – that have contributed the least to climate change but will be the most impacted by future climate impacts. Similarly, the United State’s submitted an ambitious “Mid-Century Strategy” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Yet both of these announcements did not receive the media coverage they merited.

I wish I could express my surprise at the lack of ambition demonstrated by countries at COP22 (specifically developed nations), but I know – as overheard by a negotiator on the phone the other day – that “the UN climate system is not known for its expedience.” This year’s COP builds upon the solid framework that the Paris Agreement created for global greenhouse gas emission reductions, but the implementation of these plans is moving far too slowly.

Luckily, the world is not dependent on UN negotiators to get work done. There is a global community of civil society organizations, campaigns, institutes, and individuals passionate about making real change – not only on an international scale, but national and local levels as well. I had the pleasure of working closely with a network of youth from around the world who came to COP22 to make their voices heard within the UN system but also continue the fight in their home countries. Their calls for ambitious climate action are what will ultimately lead the transition to the just, clean, and sustainable energy future we strive to create. While I will continue to uphold the importance of international climate summits, I put my faith in the work of the global climate justice movement – the real change-makers of our society.

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