21 May 2018
SDG Knowledge Weekly: Climate Transparency, Finance and Coherence
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

The Ambition to Action project released an Update Report analyzing linkages between NDCs and SDGs.

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies published a working paper on institutional arrangements for market mechanisms in reporting, to reduce double counting of emissions reductions.

A technical report by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission assesses policy coherence and the SDGs.

The Bonn Climate Change Conference held earlier this month focused global attention on implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. This brief reviews papers that connect countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the SDGs, support an enhanced climate transparency framework, explore carbon pricing and taxation, and discuss ways to increase coherence.

The Ambition to Action project has presented a new way to identify how particular climate actions affect the attainment of SDG targets. The SDG Climate Action Nexus (SCAN) tool is set out in a report titled, ‘NDC Update Report Special Edition: Linking NDCs and SDGs.’ The tool outlines over 500 linkages between mitigation actions and SDG targets. (Adaptation actions are forthcoming.) While the SCAN tool accounts for both synergies and trade-offs, it shows that 83% of mitigation actions positively affect development and progress towards the SDGs. Within the remaining 17% of actions that negatively impact on development, two-thirds are found in the transportation and electricity sectors.

The report is part of a series of biannual updates released in conjunction with the UNFCCC negotiations. This edition also looks at country experiences, using the Netherlands and India as case studies, and macro-level relationships between the NDCs and SDGs through four thematic clusters: data and transparency, finance, policy and institutional frameworks, and sectoral approaches. In the discussion on sectors, the paper notes—similar to the Sustainability research article by authors from the University of Surrey, covered in a recent SDG Knowledge Weekly brief—that the SDGs do not provide guidance on where linkages between actions and targets occur. The SCAN tool can offer initial identification of SDG impacts by mitigation or adaptation action, but a deeper analysis of the impacts and interactions may be needed to prioritize actions or inform policy decisions. The Ambition to Action Project is a joint initiative implemented by the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and NewClimate Institute, with support from German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

On transparency, a working paper by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) explores ways to reduce “double counting” of emissions reductions, which leads to a discrepancy between reported statistics and actual amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. The paper looks at institutional arrangements for “reporting the use of market mechanisms,” in order to avoid double counting, per Articles 4, 6 and 13 of the Paris Agreement. The paper notes that an enhanced transparency framework should include international guidance on what data Parties to the Agreement should report. Possible data on international market mechanisms include a registry of projects, methodologies and assumptions used to calculate emissions reductions along with the estimated reductions from each project, and carbon credits issued. The authors recommend that the existing guidelines on countries’ Biennial Update Reports (BURs) be the basis for discussions. On data, IGES also released a paper on how local data management can inform frontrunner cities’ efforts to implement SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) in Asia.

Limits on new coal investment provide a market signal, but do not acknowledge the scale of the existing problem.

On finance, Matt Gray of Carbon Tracker, authored a blog that finds one coal plant will need to close each day from now to 2040 in order to meet the warming goal of the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming by 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Directed at financing institutions, the article calls on investors to demand asset-level retirement schedules from coal unit operators. While investors’ recent announcements on limiting new coal investment provide a market signal, Gray claims that they do not acknowledge the scale of the existing problem, equating the announcements to “shuffling chairs on the Titanic.”

Related to climate, finance and reducing carbon emissions, four papers were released on carbon pricing and taxing, featuring advice for businesses, as well as findings and recommendations for developed and developing countries alike:

On coherence, SDG target 17.14 calls on countries to “enhance policy coherence for sustainable development” (PCSD). The term is not new, but can be defined in a number of ways. At its core, PCSD is about policies’ interactions with each other and their spillover effects, not just domestically and across borders, but also over time. A technical report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission describes a tool called MAGNET – the Modular Applied GeNeral Equilibrium Tool – a model framework for assessing policy coherence and the SDGs, as well as the European Bioeconomy Strategy and Roadmap. The MAGNET model builds on an underlying database of production, consumption and trade flows, which enables prediction of output and market prices, as well as estimates on employment effects, land use change and trends in trade. Focusing on bio-based sectors (i.e. biofuels), the paper finds the MAGNET tool to be “an attractive option for policy coherence impact assessments of different scenarios through the evaluation of synergies or trade-offs.”

The tool’s SDG Insights Module (SIM) allows scenario analysis of actions in the bioeconomy and their impacts against the SDGs, primarily through an economic lens. In the model, the SDGs’ 2030 time horizon represents the medium-term baseline. It uses indicators primarily relating to energy usage, consumption, competitiveness, employment and growth, climate and land use, with discussion on policy coherence around and predicted trends toward SDGs 2 (no hunger), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 10 (reduced inequalities).

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.

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