Measurement, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas related activities underpin effective functioning of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”) and Kyoto Protocol measures. Transparency and clarity of rules that are applicable to all Parties is key to implementing whatever agreement (if any) is reached at Paris. Current transparency requirements are considered capable of improvement and notwithstanding attempts at consolidation, the Bonn text of 23 October 2015 continues to be based on an options approach.
Measures to enhance transparency of action and support under UNFCCC were adopted as part of the Bali Action Plan at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 13 in 2007 and have been further elaborated in decisions adopted at subsequent COPs. A key feature of the current transparency negotiations is bifurcation – that requirements are different for developed and developing countries in relation to measurement, reporting and verification.
For COP 21, initial thinking on the part of some countries appeared to be leaning towards an approach that would move away from bifurcation towards a common framework applicable to all Parties. That approach would include flexibility provisions to allow the varying capacities of developed and developing countries to be reflected in applicable transparency requirements. Initial drafting included this as one option and included retaining bifurcation as another option.
It was reported that there was discussion in the spin-off group in Bonn about whether to emphasise bifurcation and continue the current differentiation or whether the emphasis should be on the robustness of the transparency measures. The issue was not resolved and the Bonn text includes 4 options for establishing a transparency framework for both action and support:
- a robust framework that differentiates between developed and developing countries, building on current arrangements, applicable to all Parties and providing flexibility to developing countries;
- a unified and robust transparency system, covering both action and support, with built in flexibility to take account of Parties differing capacities but without bifurcation;
- a robust framework differentiated on a three tiered basis - based on self-differentiation with no backsliding, national capabilities and Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) and which builds on existing arrangements; and
- a transparency framework for action and support that takes into account Parties different capacities.
The text also invites negotiation on the inclusion of potential provisions on the purpose of transparency of both action and of support.
Assuming one of these framework options is agreed, there will be a need to also agree provision for further work for the CMA (the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement) to settle not only the detail of the information to be provided by the Parties but also the adoption of common modalities, procedures and guidelines for reporting and review of the information to be reported. The need for cooperation between the CMA and the COP to avoid overlap and duplication is acknowledged in the draft text.
Article 10 of the draft text which is headed Global Stocktake, provides for a periodic stocktake of implementation of the Agreement to assess progress towards achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention. There may be some overlap with the information gathered through the transparency arrangements but the focus appears to be on a global aggregate of actions taken rather than highlighting actions of individual Parties. The draft text provides a number of options for the date of the first global stocktake but contemplates that it would take place at regular intervals, possibly every 5 years, after that.
A key aspect of the negotiations is that the draft text reflects recognition that increased transparency is fundamental to an agreement even if it is agreed that some details will have to be settled at a later date. However in light of the number of options and their potential impacts, this is a tricky area of the text on which the Parties will need to reach consensus if an agreement is to be signed.
There is a concern that changes to the current system of measurement, reporting and verification will be an undue burden to developing countries in terms of matters such as cost, administration and potentially intrusive scrutiny. This concern comes through in the draft text. That there is recognition of (and building upon) the extensive work and experience to date, and potential provision of financial support for developing countries for implementation of the transparency provisions, should allay some of these concerns.