Before Nationally Determined Contributions and Capacity-Building, there was the Consultative Group of Experts. The Consultative Group of Experts was established by the 5th Conference of the Parties under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The CGE is the key technical support element under the UNFCCC that assists developing country Parties in meeting their reporting obligations. It provides developing country Parties with technical advice and support to improve their national communications (NCs) and biennial update reports (BURs).
The CGE, being mandated by the UNFCCC in 1999, was supposed to terminate by 2009. After getting reconstituted once (2009 to 2012) and extended twice (2012 to 2013, 2014 to 2018), will reach the end of its mandate next year, when the Implementing Guideline for the Paris Agreement are intended to go into effect. Its Five-Year Work Programme from 2015-2018 focused on five key priorities: (1) Building the capacity of developing country Parties to facilitate implementation of Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) arrangements under the UNFCCC; (2) enhance the sustainability of the national communications of the national communications and biennial update report process; (3) enhance collaboration and cooperation with other global initiatives; (4) enhance communication and outreach; and (5) enhance availability of resources and optimal working arrangements for the operations of the CGE.
Thus far, the CGE has conducted successful regional workshops in Africa and in Asia, involving 52 non-Annex I parties in total. These workshops were organized in collaboration with the Global Support Program. The CGE has also held webinars in collaboration with the Adaptation Committee (AC), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These webinars covered a wide range of topics relevant to non-Annex I Parties’ NCs and BURs, such as the MRV Framework and climate change scenarios. The CGE also has a free e-learning course on national GHG inventory systems, mitigation assessment, and vulnerability and adaptation assessment. These projects have allowed non-Annex I Parties like Indonesia and Uruguay to submit their respective NCs and BURs to the UNFCCC Secretariat.
Yet, despite all of CGE’s good work, non-Annex I Parties—now developing country Parties under the Paris Agreement—still lack important capacities that will put them in par with the reporting capabilities of the Annex I parties. The CGE’s 2017 Survey revealed that this lower capability in non-Annex I parties is a result several factors, the most prominent of which are insufficient resources and ineffective institutional arrangements. Governments in developing countries have tight purse strings and often suffer from high turn-over rates. Moreover, they often do not have local institutions that manage the entire reporting process. Financial concerns aside, the CGE attempts to address ineffective institutional arrangements by encouraging and helping developing countries establish these institutions and train their people. For countries with very limited capacity, assistance for the CGE is invaluable.
After all the beneficial work of the CGE, does it have a role to play under the Paris Agreement? The answer to that is simple: We do not know. Once the CGE’s Five-Year Mandate ends, the CGE ceases to operate, unless it is renewed for another period.
The Paris Agreement builds on the UNFCCC and will eventually supersede it. There is no provision in the Paris Agreement that bestows a role on the CGE. The Subsidiary Body for Implementation included this issue on its provisional agenda, but ultimately decided to hold it in abeyance. Therefore, the Parties will not discuss the fate of the CGE in COP 23. Unless the Parties decide to include the role of the CGE in its agenda for SBI 48, the CGE will not be featured in the Paris Agreement’s Implementation Guidelines. Furthermore, the Paris Agreement asks Parties to submit nationally determined contributions. This means that Parties decide on what to submit and how to submit, subject to the basic requirements laid out in the Agreement. Whether the CGE evolves to serve the Parties’ needs under the Agreement depends on whether the Parties remember that the CGE exists to help them.
This does not mean that the CGE will have absolutely no hand in the Parties’ progress towards their goals. The CGE trained some of the developing country Parties. They created material that get passed on from one developing country Party administration to the next. However the CGE’s story ends, the Parties should know that the Paris Agreement would not have been as successful without it.