MRV and the Virtues of Clarity

7 December 2011

As we look closely at the current state of the negotiations, the LCA text released over the weekend falls short of the advances we need on both clarification and accounting. Without more progress this week the environmental integrity of the regime will decay if not disappear altogether.

Amidst all the talk of lack of ambition, one would think that the far from sufficient pledges in hand today would at least be solid. But we don’t clearly know what is in the pledges and the foundation on which they supposedly stand – a solid accounting framework – is also at risk.

Here’s why we care about clarification of pledges. Recent workshops showed that countries have not been very forthcoming about their pledges, including underlying methodologies and assumptions. This is a serious problem for tracking progress towards both domestic goals and global temperature targets – and that’s at the heart of the matters before us, right?

We are looking at real challenges to understanding aggregate reductions, a key input into the 2013-2015 review.

And that’s not all. Without more transparency, it will also be difficult to avoid double counting of emissions reductions. So let’s review piece by piece where the text falls short.

Regarding Annex I targets, the text calls for workshops, a technical paper, and a template to be filled out by Parties (Chapter IIA, Para 9).

This is a good start, but the template should also request Parties to be forthcoming about market-based mechanisms accounting methodologies, procedures to avoid double counting, the use of uncovered sectors or gases acting as domestic offsets (if applicable) and related methodologies. And the template should be included in the Durban decision..

On non-Annex I actions, the text invites Parties to submit information on their actions (Chapter IIB, Para 23).

However, an invitation alone will not necessarily result in the information necessary for tracking performance. The COP should also create a mandate for non-Annex I Parties to provide information through the completion of templates or questionnaires, with capacity support as needed. These should be specific to various pledge types, given the diversity of actions.

Lastly, SBSTA should establish a process on how these details should be reported in biennial reports, and define adjustment procedures so Parties don’t just change assumptions and methodologies willy nilly with no real justification.

Now here’s why we care about accounting. Accounting for emission reductions is at the heart of environmental integrity of the climate regime. If done in a transparent, consistent, comparable, complete, and accurate manner, accounting ensures comparability, the ability to add up and assess global emissions reductions, and quality in the carbon market.

And here’s where the text falls short. On Annex I, while the text acknowledges the need for a common system for measuring progress (Chapter IIA, Para 14), the text does not refer to the word “accounting”, leaving the text fuzzy and vulnerable to co-opting. 

The text further calls for a work programme to establish such a system but fails to mention “common” and “accounting”.

And a work programme is not necessary for Annex I targets, considering the experience we have gained through the Kyoto Protocol. There is no date by which the work programme is completed, so clearly these elements are just tactics for delay.

So to recap, If we are to preserve any environmental integrity of this regime, provisions for clarification of pledges and proper accounting needs to be strengthened this week.

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