The 2016 Climate Change Conference in Marrakech has come to a close. The activity, excitement and intensity – and in the end, the enormous exhilaration – from last year's conference in Paris, was replaced by a more business-like atmosphere. That the Paris agreement has been ratified and come into force in record time is certainly gratifying, but now it's time to move from promises and intentions to acting.
As was expressed by a speaker... “promises and intentions are soooo 2015, now it’s time for action, and discussing what we actually do!” In Marrakesh, hopes centred on starting the work of filling out the structure of the Paris agreement. This includes issues like defining reporting and monitoring activities, defining what the promises of individual countries actually involve, and how the process of the five-year review will be designed. But these issues will take several years to address.
Positive environmental events have taken place in 2016 elsewhere than these proceedings. An international agreement to mitigate global airline emissions was concluded within the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This is the first industry to agree to joint action on reducing emissions on a global scale. Agreement was also reached within the framework of the Montreal Protocol regarding fully phasing out eight powerful GHGs which are thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide. These gases are currently mostly used in air conditioning equipment.
Trump causes uncertainty
But there is cause for concern. Like the elephant in the room, that no-one really discusses – or possibly referred to as “he who cannot be named” – the U.S. President-elect is raising uncertainty. The US delegation neither can nor will express an opinion on the changes to climate policy the new president will bring, though they have issued assurances that activities in the US will continue. Though perhaps in a different way, as by individual states, cities and businesses.
Some are speculating that the US will withdraw participation in international climate activities. But there is no official response. At the conference, China has been clear in stating that regardless of what the US does, they will support the Paris agreement. The dynamics of global climate actions may change, but work will continue is the message being broadcast.
The enterprise sector a positive influence
The enterprise sector is identified by many as being a positive force in providing solutions to climate issues. This includes by policy-makers, researchers and other stakeholder organisations. They see greater numbers of companies taking the step from discussing objectives and intentions to actual actions. This applies to both reducing emissions in their own operations, as well as developing smart products and solutions that contribute to reducing GHC emissions on a global scale. This is where the enterprise sector has a clear role in climate protections – innovating to make these solutions competitive and ready for the market.
The commitment of the enterprise sector can be seen in the creation of the Marrakesh Business Action for Climate. This initiative was led by the General Confederation of Moroccan Business Enterprises (CGEM) with the support of 42 employer and business organisations from across the globe, including the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and representatives from the US, India, Japan, Brazil, the EU and large portions of Africa. One of their most important messages is that the enterprise sector will continue its active participation in implementing the Paris agreement.
Perhaps this means that this type of initiative will have greater significance where commitment and innovation in the enterprise sector will continue to drive climate issues forward, more so than public policy does. The power of innovation is clearly exemplified in the fact that carbon dioxide emissions have stabilized over the last three years. This is partly due to new technologies becoming competitive in markets, and reducing GHC emissions has become simpler and cheaper expected only a few years ago.
I will return to Sweden with a stronger conviction of the positive role the enterprise sector has in promoting climate improvements. The enterprise sector, given the proper prerequisites for innovation and development, will have a defining role in meeting our climate challenges. And this, regardless of political events in any single country, or in the various international climate negotiations.
Maria Sunér Fleming
Published 18 November 2016