A lot was at stake for Morocco with the opening of the 22nd COP (Conference Of Parties) UN Climate Change Conference, which began at the same time as the American presidential elections.
The host country turned the odds in its favor by promoting its startups and its ecological commitment, despite the postponement of African agriculture negotiations until the next COP.
With the election of climate skeptic Donald Trump to the US presidency many feared progress around the Paris agreements from the year before, which enacted binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of greenhouse gases, would come to a halt.
The new challenge is to put these rules into practice and to control these emissions.
The Marrakesh Declaration, which was signed on November 17, accelerated the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for the countries that committed themselves in 2015. The declaration pushes the countries to revise their ambitions for 2018, rather than the Paris deadline of 2020. The 200 countries present at COP22 also committed on Friday to a "stronger commitment to climate change" and "a proclamation in support of the Paris agreements".
Moroccan startups get involved in climate change
COP22 enabled Morocco to highlight its startups and their commitment to fighting climate change.
The country, which had already created an important innovation booth at the COP21 last year, presented ideas such as a clay fridge, an electric bus and a photovoltaic torch. Even if the inventions were not necessarily new, they were 100 percent made in Morocco.
The Ait Ben Addou association presented its eco-sustainable village, and the Dar Si Hmad association showed off its device that transforms mist into drinking water in an arid region. Also noteworthy is the country's commitment to making its mosques greener in a program that aims to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent.
COP22 hosted the first edition of Tech22 Hub Africa, a competition aimed at encouraging African startups, while Startup Morocco held a startup competition about innovative ideas for climate change. The winner was a Moroccan entrepreneur, Nabil Deabji, who had the idea to transform food oil waste into soap.
Agriculture at the heart of COP22 but abandoned in final negotiations
Moroccan leaders also had other issues in mind such as the adaptation of agriculture in Africa to new climate hazards.
It wanted to raise awareness around the ‘Triple A’ initiative (Adaptation, Africa, Agriculture) which aims to make the adaptation of African agriculture a priority. While negotiations between developed and developing countries on the issue were postponed until 2017 due to a lack of consensus, the issue was the subject of many debates at COP22.
Proposed by Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture Aziz Akhannouch in May 2016 at the Salon of Agriculture in Morocco, it pushed for more climate financing for Africa, as well as improvements to the storage of carbon emissions in Africa.
The agricultural sector employs about 60 percent of the population in Africa. Despite a section of COP22 devoted to this initiative, the 20 African countries which support it failed to secure key financing from developed countries amounting to nearly $100 billion.
The diverging opinions were based on different priorities between developed countries that wanted to focus on the reduction of greenhouse gases and developing countries (developing and emerging) that wanted to focus on improving the adaptation of agriculture to new climatic imperatives.
“We should also note that agriculture was only recently introduced as an issue for climate change in the former COPs so unfortunately, it takes time to make it a priority,” said Joël Ruet, a specialist in emerging economies who was present at the COP22.
Africa was not alone in addressing the issue of agriculture, the Beirut-based International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) also proposed a plan to improve the irrigation of agriculture in Middle East and Africa.
A diplomatic strategist
Morocco, nevertheless managed to focus on the agricultural imperative for the next COP22 as well as on its own innovations.
In parallel with COP22, Morocco launched a sovereign fund dedicated to the green development of the continent, and also initiated a partnership with the World Bank around the green economy in Africa.
“The success of the COP22 for Morocco was both to have the courage to hold it - China refused to host the next one for instance - and [that] the COP22 also managed to avoid any step backwards on the agreements made during the COP21, which is also a success,” Ruet said.
Feature image via UN Climate Change, Flickr.