So far in the Road to Marrakesh blog series, we have been writing about adaptation, loss & damage and climate finance: three of the major topics that are going to be on the table at COP22. However, climate mitigation (i.e. preventing the emissions that cause climate change) is also looking like it will be a critical part of the negotiations – particularly since the Paris Agreement will now come into force the week before the COP, rather than 2020 as originally expected.

This raises the question of when exactly the pledges that countries made in Paris (their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ or INDCs – which now become NDCs) have to be put into action. Will this be 2020 as originally designed, or will it be from the 4th November when the Paris Agreement becomes operational? This tricksy legal question will be keeping lawyers busy over COP22 and potentially beyond.

To remind ourselves what has been agreed on climate mitigation at COP21, countries signed up to:

‘Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.

To achieve this long-term goal, it was agreed that Parties will:

‘Aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century’.

Whilst the 1.5C target was welcomed by UKYCC and many other civil society organisations and countries, as this is what is needed to ensure the survival of the most climate vulnerable countries, it is not clear how this target will be reached. Current pledges are expected to drastically exceed this, leaving us in the impractical situation in which we need to then remove emissions from the atmosphere. To do this is dependent on technology which is not currently operational at the scale required (such as Carbon Capture and Storage), so it is more of a pipe dream than a concrete plan. We also don’t know what will happen to climate systems and ecosystems in the meantime, whilst we raise temperatures before attempting to bring them back down to a safer level.

In Marrakesh, the main topic of negotiation in relation to mitigation will be Pre-2020 ambition. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (the treaty which precedes the Paris Agreement) runs up until 2020. As part of this, some industrialised countries have emissions reductions targets for 2020 (but not that many), and some developing countries have Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) which aim to reduce emissions below business as usual by 2020 (in line with their national development objectives). However, it is important that all countries – especially the developed countries that don’t have targets under the KP – are taking ambitious action without delay, and not waiting until after 2020. This is vital as climate models predict that we only have around 5 years to peak emissions if we want to keep a high probability of achieving 1.5 degrees.

Could this mean the NDCs being operationalised sooner? This is one way to achieve pre-2020 action. It should also involve the urgent mobilisation of climate finance from developed countries to enable developing countries to enact their NDCs, allowing them to leapfrog high carbon development patterns and transition to low carbon economies instead. Climate finance is also urgently needed for the often overlooked areas of adaptation to climate impacts, and loss & damage (the impacts which cannot be adapted to) – not only for mitigation such as clean energy technologies. All of this will be discussed at a ‘Facilitative Dialogue’ on this ‘Enhancing Ambition and Support’ during COP22.

UKYCC will also be at COP22, tracking these issues and keeping a close eye in particular on the UK government to ensure climate justice is achieved. If you have a message that you want us to take to the negotiations, email us for our Messages to Marrakesh campaign at message2marrakesh@ukycc.org or tweet us at @ukyccdelegation. We hope to hear from you!