Representing Wildlife at COP22

Fostering international partnerships to be a voice for wildlife

On Saturday, November 19th, the 22nd Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) came to a close in Marrakech, Morocco. During the two-week conference, NWF’s International Conservation Team was there as a voice for wildlife, closely following critical issues related to land use (agriculture, forestry, and efforts to reduce deforestation) – not only in the negotiations, but also during countless side-events and conversations with our international partners.

Members of the NWF International Conservation Team at COP22 Photo by Kiryssa Kasprzyk
Members of the NWF International Conservation Team at COP22. Photo by Kiryssa Kasprzyk

Overall, COP22 achieved what many hoped it would: accelerating the momentum of global climate action while transitioning to implementation of the Paris Agreement, which entered into force earlier this month. Work Programmes were set in motion to finish the Paris Agreement rulebook by 2018 – two years ahead of schedule – which will include further guidance for governments on accounting (how they measure reductions in carbon pollution) and transparency (how they report on these reductions), both of particular importance for the land sector.

The Parties also issued the Marrakech Action Proclamation, which sends a strong signal for urgency, ambition, and solidarity, and affirms that the Paris Agenda will move forward – independent of what any one Party decides to do. This was in part a response to the election of Donald Trump – who had earlier vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.

While the election cast an air of uncertainty across the venue, the message of COP22 was clear: there is a global consensus – among nations, civil society, business, indigenous groups, and private citizens – that we will continue our efforts to combat climate change and that more action is needed to reach our climate goals. This message was repeated heavily throughout the conference.

Remaining steadfast in their optimism about both American and global momentum, the U.S. delegation released its Mid-Century Strategy to remind us that trends in markets, policies, and financing all favor progress towards the transition to a low-carbon economy, reduced deforestation, and increased innovation for climate change solutions. On Friday, NWF stood together with civil society to take the biggest UNFCCC “family photo” ever to say: We Will Move Ahead.

Hundreds of government and civil society supporters of the Paris Agreement pose together at the COP22 in Marrakech with a giant banner bearing the words 'We Will Move Ahead' to show their determination to move ahead with action against climate change. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace
Hundreds of government and civil society supporters of the Paris Agreement pose together at COP22 to show their determination to move ahead with action against climate change. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace

While the high-level diplomats sent the strong signal that the Paris Agreement is unstoppable, many of the most moving moments came from civil society and the private sector. Throughout COP22, NWF participated in many forums that showcased exciting innovations and announcements on climate action. NWF co-hosted an official side event exploring opportunities to improve management practices on farms and ranches around the world as a means to improve rural livelihoods, reduce the impacts of climate change, and protect wildlife habitat.

During the three-day Low-Emissions Solutions Conference, International Team Manager David Burns, took part in a panel on low-carbon fuels. To begin the event, the Below50 initiative was launched as a collaboration platform for sustainable fuels that produce at least 50% fewer CO2 emissions than conventional fossil fuels. This was an exciting stage for David to then speak about the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), which is a core partner of the Below50 campaign and an integral part of finding solutions for low-carbon transport that also protect wildlife and wild spaces.

NWF presents at the Low Emissions Solutions Conference. Photo by Kiryssa Kasprzyk
NWF presents at the Low Emissions Solutions Conference. Photo by Kiryssa Kasprzyk

The International Team spent much of COP22 connecting with existing and new potential partners for our work in Southeast Asia and Latin America during events focused on conservation of these key tropical forest areas, including the annual Global Landscapes Forum. We engaged in inspiring conversations and exchange of ideas on topics ranging from REDD+ implementation, zero-deforestation supply chain monitoring, and innovative nature-based solutions, to public-private financing initiatives, and the role of forests and agriculture in achieving the Paris Agreement.

Armed with new ideas and new tools, such as the launch of the traceability tool called Trase, NWF can continue our fight to protect the diverse wildlife that call tropical forest landscapes home, such as Sumatran and Bornean orangutans that continue to be threatened by oil palm expansion.

Photo by Sharon Hibbard.
Photo by Shannon Hibberd.

Despite the overall air of excitement and momentum — building at the venue, progress at COP22 was in many ways quite slow on important issues for the land-use sector. The NWF team closely followed negotiations surrounding COP’s technical work on issues relating to agriculture. Heading into Marrakesh, agriculture seemed like an area where some much-needed guidance could be issued due to substantial areas of agreement among Parties about climate-friendly agricultural practices. However, the negotiations stalled after several days of working through a draft decision text, and the issue will be discussed again at the next technical meeting in 2017. NWF and our partners will continue to call for action and share our knowledge of solutions that work for agriculture, forests, and the climate.

Sunset over COP22. Photo by Kiryssa Kasprzyk
Sunset over COP22. Photo by Kiryssa Kasprzyk

Thus, at “the COP of Action” the story became clear that while Parties complete the necessary, yet tedious, work to implement the Paris Agreement, a big part of the arena for pre-2020 action has moved to civil society, the private sector, and countries with high ambition. Unexpected leaders emerged, such as the Climate Vulnerable Forum – an international partnership of forty-some countries highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change – which issued their Marrakech Vision. The business-case for climate action got even stronger, as 360+ major global companies urged President-elect Trump to honor the Paris Agreement.

Post COP, NWF will continue to work on toward solving the climate change challenge, together with public and private sector alike, to not only make sure the Paris Agreement works for wildlife, but also to step up our ambition to protect wildlife and wild spaces.

Learn MoreLearn more about NWF’s international conservation work.

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Published: November 23, 2016