MARRAKECH, Morocco—By the close of the latest climate talks, nearly 200 countries had engaged the bureaucratic gears for converting the text of last year's global climate accord into action. Backed by major businesses and others, they reaffirmed their promise "to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our time."
But whether the world rallies fast enough to prevent the worst climate impacts is more uncertain now than when negotiations began two weeks ago in Marrakech.
"When we came to Marrakech, it was on a high note," Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the science advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, said. In the lead up to these talks, the Paris climate agreement entered into force, and faster than expected. Nations agreed to ramp-down potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, and the aviation industry reached consensus on a strategy for lowering their carbon footprint.
Since the outcome of the U.S. election, Meyer said, "there's been concern expressed around these halls."
However, in the final stretch of the conference, the tone largely shifted to one of increasing confidence and optimism, at least publicly, that the momentum on climate action would not be halted by any single country.
Here are some of the examples of how momentum continued at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22):
Negotiators agreed to complete the rules for the Paris accord by 2018 and do an assessment of climate action that year.
Nations held the first meeting of the Parties of the Paris Agreement (called CMA1); the biggest decision was to signal their intent to bring a major fund for adaptation under the accord.
Two major initiatives were launched to help developing countries fulfill the goals of the global agreement: the NDC Partnership and the Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency.
The first countries (Canada, Germany, Mexico and the U.S.) released visions for deeply decarbonizing their economies by 2050.
A group of 47 developing countries pledged to transition their economies to run entirely on renewables, and to make the switch by 2030-2050, the latest.
To show solidarity for urgent climate action, countries released the one-page Marrakech Action Proclamation reaffirming their commitments, and more than 300 companies published an open letter to U.S. leaders asserting their dedication to action.
"People came in with action on their mind and they are going out with a stronger commitment to that action," David Waskow, director of the international climate initiative at the World Resource Institute, told InsideClimate News. The central thread of this conference, he added, is "people want to make clear they are not going to be held back by anything."
This was the underlying message of statements by high-level officials from China, Germany and others. It was also echoed by lame-duck Obama administration officials including special envoy for climate change Jonathan Pershing.
Speaking to a huddle of reporters in the final hours of the talks, Pershing said: "I'd suggest the beginning of the week, the election was the discussion and by the end of the meeting, the climate change issue was the discussion."
But not everyone is buying it.
"People are just talking about, with or without the U.S. we are still in. But I just feel like we are talking about half the story," Kashmala Kakakhel, a researcher at the Pakistan Center for Philanthropy, told InsideClimate News. "The other half is, you are letting [the U.S.] go free for all their historical emissions and...that means the burden comes on all the other countries."
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New Climate Change Pledges and Funds
Outside of the formal talks, a series of new initiatives, funds and climate pledges were made.