COP22 Marrakesh: The Last Hurrah for 2 COP Champions

It is a time of uncertainty in many parts of the world right now, but also a time when familiar faces are going to fade into the background. COP22 has seen two stalwarts make their final appearance over the past 24 hours.

Ban Ki Moon has been a key figure keeping the momentum for a climate change agreement going through some difficult times during his tenure as Secretary General. In that time he has attended each of the 10 COP meetings and worked assiduously behind the scenes, cajoling, prodding, gently persuading a changing array of politicians to face up to the greatest challenge of the 21st Century. His departure leaves a leadership vacuum at a time when those wishing to unravel his carefully assembled structures enter the political ascendancy.

Nowhere was this more poignantly shown than by the appearance of John Kerry the US Secretary of State today. His talk was largely unpublicised in advance, yet a large queue formed early outside the venue and overflow facilities accommodated a second large crowd in the US Pavilion. In what was probably the finest speech on climate this writer has experienced, Secretary Kerry spoke for almost an hour with no obvious notes or prompts. Yet he delivered a masterful talk which touched on all of the key issues expertly. It was exhilarating at times and conveyed his conviction that the progress copper-fastened by Paris was irreversible. The market forces for renewable energy in particular were now unstoppable as the fossil fuel age neared its end, he argued, and the rights and good sense of the next generation would see progress continue. But he questioned whether we today have the will to make the choices necessary to ensure his little granddaughter, whom he took to the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, would, like other children, inherit a world not damaged by the short term decisions we are making today. He spoke of his travels in Greenland and Antarctica, of his experiences of drought and floods, and of his joy at the successful signing of the Paris Agreement and quoted President Obama, Pope Francis and Winston Churchill as leaders who stood up to be counted at crucial times. Looking around I could see a few people wiping away a tear or two as this great champion made his final COP exit.

Closer to home Mary Robinson, another stalwart of the COP, delivered a strong speech on Climate Justice where she emphasised the need to protect the most vulnerable in the developing world. A particular vulnerability affects environmental campaigners in some Central American countries where murders are presently occurring and she spoke eloquently about human rights and gender issues as being central to implementing the Paris Agreement.

Each Head of State, Head of Government or Minister responsible for climate change action was given 3 minutes to tell the world what they were or were not doing. Most talked blithely through the gongs and bells designed to cut them off after their allotted time. But then again there were some no Chair would like to argue with!

Ireland’s Minister Naughten laid out the plans for a Climate Dialogue, a mitigation and Adaptation strategy and how his efforts had succeeded in getting the Dail to ratify the Paris Agreement. He did not comment on the fact that Ireland’s emissions are increasing rapidly, rather than decreasing as our obligations require, nor of our, thus far, pathetic contribution to the Green Climate Fund. But then again, Ireland’s position is beginning to be well known in the wider world as a delinquent country when it comes to walking the walk rather than talking the talk about climate change. The reputational damage for Ireland is will sooner or later come home to roost.

Professor John Sweeney, Marrakech


Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


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An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.