Not So €˜Common’ Common Time Frames

22 June 2019

If you are looking for common tabular formats (CTF) in this article, you are reading the wrong piece. This CTF refers to the common time frames for the implementation of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs). We knows that when it comes to common time frames, most people think it is common sense to have a five-year time frame. Why? Well, the NDCs are communicated every five years and the global stocktake takes place every five years. Nevertheless, the negotiations on common time frames (and other areas) don’t always follow common sense.

We have followed the two negotiations on CTF at the Bonn session and, just as at COP24 in Katowice, not much progress has been made. At COP 24, Parties agreed that common time frames will apply to NDCs to be implemented from 2031 onward. However, it doesn’t really address when the NDC shall be communicated. 2025 or 2030? Well, the general consensus in the room is that NDCs communicated in 2025 should be implemented from 2031 onwards.

The other crucial question on CTF’s is, when will Parties finally make a decision on this important item? Some Parties have floated the idea of finalizing this important item by 2023, which is as late as you can get. We believe that Parties need to leave Bonn with a deadline, as to achieve consensus on the CTF as soon as possible. Just like vacations, some Parties like to plan their NDC a bit early, so anything beyond 2020 is far too late. The final decision text should also explicitly mention that the implementation period shall begin five years after the NDCs have been communicated.

Lastly, we want to remind you why a 5-year NDC implementation period is preferred:

  1. It avoids locking in low levels of ambition. Assuming Parties choose to adopt 10 year NDC implementation periods, and given that the next round of NDCs will be tabled ahead of 2025, there is a risk of locking in low ambition for 15 years between 2025 and 2040.
  2. It harnesses rapidly evolving real-world opportunities by allowing the Paris climate regime to better take into account the technological, political, and economic progress.
  3. It incentivizes early action by avoiding delayed action on climate mitigation. Governments can always align their 5-year commitments with 10-year aspirational targets.
  4. It aligns better with the broader Paris climate regime since NDCs will be communicated every 5 years and the global stocktake takes place every 5 years.
  5. It maintains political accountability, since most election cycles are 4-6 years and fulfilling commitments made for periods well into the future will become someone else’s political liability. Having a 5-year implementation period will increase the sense of responsibility, urgency and accountability of incumbents.

Youth are demanding more ambitious action on climate change. A common time frame that matches the Paris ambition cycle is crucial to ensure that the Paris Agreement serves its purpose and provides youth with a sustainable future.

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