A Debate Brewing with Regard to Accounting and Transparency of Mitigation Commitments

Today the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Advancement of the Durban Platform (ADP) had a meeting to discuss the ADP cochairsproposals for mitigation commitments contained in the ADP Co-Chairs’ November 11, 2014 Non-Paper on Elements for a Draft Negotiating Text.  In somewhat typical fashion, the meeting finally got off to a start about an hour behind schedule.  Given the widespread interest in the shape that mitigation commitments will take in the “protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force” that is supposed to be adopted at the COP in Paris next year, the room was packed to capacity and people were overflowing into the hallway.

Some predictable patterns emerged once things got off to a start.  India emphasized that the Parties are not negotiating a new Convention and made oft-repeated calls for the draft text to contain references to the Convention’s principles of “common but differentiated responsibilities” and equity.  Several other Parties, including Bolivia, Jordan, Venezuela, Argentina, and Cuba supported this view.  On the other hand, Parties including Japan, the United States, Switzerland, and Canada stated in various ways that they did not support the binary approach of the Convention.

accountingOne interesting divergence that emerged during the course of today’s negotiations concerned scheduling and accounting methods for mitigation actions and, by extension, transparency.  The United States said that the mitigation section of the draft text should require each party joining the agreement to submit a schedule for its INDCs that it intends to implement.  Initially, each Party’s mitigation contribution should relate to a common timeframe of 2025.  Each party should also accompany its mitigation contribution with clarifying information and should report periodically, in accordance with an agreed timeline, on its progress toward implementing the contribution.  The United States also stated that the Parties should agree in Paris on procedures for reviewing Parties’ implementation of their mitigation contributions.  Australia supported this position, adding that there should be accounting in the land sector as well.  Switzerland also joined in, emphasizing the importance of transparency, and stated that the Parties should elaborate on the requirements and procedures for transparency in Paris in 2015.  However, Brazil and some other countries opposed these suggestions, stating that the Non-paper already contained many provisions regarding transparency and there was therefore no need to add it in to the mitigation section.

As stated by the World Resources Institute, transparency is key to an effective climate regime because it enables Parties and other stakeholders to assess how their emissions reductions compare with other Parties, which may build trust and contribute to the implementation of the agreement.  Additionally, it can build confidence in the agreement and strengthen its credibility.  Whether the United States’ proposal regarding accounting and transparency would strengthen or improve the the draft text over the transparency provisions already there is an open question.