Many hopes are pinned on Marrakech climate conference
World leaders are meeting in Marrakech to lay down global rules for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal will be to limit climate change. They will seek to nudge countries around the world to pursue low-carbon policies that can hold the global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
While they are about it, the leaders will also dream — and argue — about ways to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
It is a simply enormous task but Morocco, more than any other country, has been making strides in establishing itself as a regional climate leader. It has been making determined progress towards a climate-resilient future.
Morocco has committed itself to several signature high-profile renewable energy projects, not least the largest wind farm in Africa, an enormous solar power plant, near Ouarzazate, and even an ambitious initiative for 600 “green mosques” by March 2019, complete with light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems.
World Bank Vice-President Hafez Ghanem commended the “powerful example” Morocco set with its careful alignment of “policy and investments towards increasing resilience and fostering a low-carbon economy”.
More to the point is the fact Morocco is hosting this conference, referred to as COP 22, an acronym for the 22nd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The 21st, in Paris late last year, enabled 195 countries to agree on the importance of staving off the most devastating effects of climate change by limiting emissions. That landmark deal went into force November 4th. Now, Marrakech must take it onward and upward. Can it?
Morocco is well-suited to make the case and the region from which it speaks illustrates the urgency all too well. Climate change could make life near impossible in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, home to about 500 million people, within a scant few decades. Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia recently declared that even the Paris deal to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius will not prevent large swathes of the region from becoming practically uninhabitable.
By the end of this century, the researchers said, midday temperatures could reach a staggering 50 degrees Celsius and deadly heat waves will be potentially ten times more likely than today. The result would be more frequent and more severe droughts and increased migration to cities, even as rising sea levels push coastal dwellers into the ever more crowded hinterland. As Ghanem put it, a rising Mediterranean “could affect up to 25 million people between Algiers and Beirut”.
This is a frightful and frightening prospect with consequences that go beyond displacement, loss of livelihood, agricultural wipeout and many great floods for a region already plagued by war and instability.
On Morocco’s COP 22 then rest the hopes of the MENA region and those of the wider world.