Looking through the material I’d accumulated at the COP22 climate talks in Marrakech recently, I came across a leaflet for the Handle Climate Change Film Festival, in Shenzhen, China, next year. That seemed fitting, given the balance of impact at the climate talks. China is now clearly the global leader in pushing for strong action in cutting emissions, with the EU in a supportive role.
The talks could have been derailed by the shock of the election of Donald Trump at their start, but they weren’t. Three factors were key in the relative optimism and determination. First was that renewable energy technologies are now outcompeting even coal on purely financial grounds; several reports showed US coal consumption plummeting as even Republican states abandon its use. Second was the determination seen around the rest of the world to raise environmental standards; as a number of Americans said to me: “It’s our companies and economy that will suffer if Trump pushes us in the other direction.” Third was the obvious reality of climate change, making the need for action impossible to deny. The shocking end-of-year Arctic sea ice figures only accentuated that.
The direct outcomes from Marrakech were never going to be headline-grabbing – indeed not a lot was settled here, or was ever likely to be. This was a meeting still working through the momentous decision in Paris to at least aim to keep warming to 1.5°C. The unexpectedness of that is still clear: International Energy Organisation experts have a detailed breakdown of figures needed in different sectors to reach 2°C and ‘well below 2°C’. They’re still preparing 1.5°C ones.
Fiji – a state with a clear cause to be strong and fearless – emerged as the chair of the 2017 talks in Bonn, when many crucial issues will come to a head. The talks will no doubt not be any easier, but the three reasons for optimism seen in Marrakech are only likely to be strengthened in the coming year.
Natalie Bennett travelled to COP22 with the Green Economics Institute