BURs: One Small Decision Leads to Surprising Results!

The Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) is a hot topic at COP24. At the conclusion of COP24 is the deadline for all parties to put their heads together, develop, and finalize provisions for the modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPG) of the ETF. The MPGs might supersede and replace the current transparency framework called measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV). Completion of the MPGs marks a significant milestone for the Paris Agreement. Anticipation to see the final provisions and roll out of the MPGs has already caused ripple effects when it comes to reporting.

The UNFCCC cannot help but celebrate the ongoing progress in transparency. The UNFCCC is observing the fruits of all party’s efforts, despite some resistancbur1_552e, through increase rates of party participation in submitting annual reports, specifically Biennial Update Reports (BURs). The BUR was the brain child of PA parties committed to climate change at COP17 in 2012. BURs are reports submitted by non-Annex I parties. BURs generally contain updates to GHG inventories, mitigation actions, status, needs and support. BURs should be submitted every two years at the time of the first submittal. Least developed country parties (LDC) have the flexibility to submit their first BUR at their discretion.┬áThe BURs are purely collaborative and peer-reviewed by international consultation and analysis (ICA). The ICA is made up of teams of experts that consist of PA parties.

Although BURs on their face may not appear to be an exciting process, parties’ implementation, feedback and lessons learned have exciting benefits. At COP24, the UNFCCC hosted a side event which showed the progress of BURs and featured case studies from Brazil and China.

As of today, the UNFCC has received a total of 66 BUR reports. Recent submissions from Brazil and China help serve as ideal case studies for other non-Annex I parties.

When Brazil started preparing its BUR report, little did it know that the BUR would significantly enhance government workflow and increase environmental awareness. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the BUR report and quickly learned the logistical nightmare and resources needed to complete the report. Brazil’s BUR report took about a year to complete. However, after the report was submitted, Brazil conducted a lessons learned exercise and found surprising results. Brazil learned that preparation of the BUR improved communication and exchange between ministries. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) engaged with energy and agriculture agencies, which were unfamiliar with the UNFCCC and the BUR. The MOFA encouraged these officials to participate in BUR workshops and in turn the agencies spurred investigation and internal discussion adopting environmental initiatives in their respective agencies.

China’s BUR had similar benefits compared to Brazil. Lessons learned after China’s first BUR submission revealed adoption of procedures that heightened internal quality assurance and control. Additionally, China started building a national system to archive environmental and climate change data. Even more impressive, China pushed past its reluctant disposition and started sharing emission factor data and best practices with the ICA. China is in progress in submitting its second BUR report and is excited to see the differences from its first report.

The BURs play a key role in helping developing countries establish environmental reporting procedures. BURs can also have the indirect effect of facilitating government cohesion between agencies and pushing countries down a greener path.