As the year 2016 came to a close, the UNFCCC Secretariat published summary reports of the fourth round of the multilateral assessment of developed countries’ progress toward achieving the quantified economy-wide emission limitation and reduction targets.
Several technical assessments of developing countries’ actions regarding forest reference emission levels and biennial update reports (BURs) were also made available.
January 2017: The transparency system under the UNFCCC continued to mature in December 2016, shedding light on developed and developing countries’ mitigation achievements and their plans to reduce emissions.
The transparency and compliance regime builds international trust and confidence that action to address climate change is underway, in addition to facilitating further assessment and action. As the year 2016 came to a close, the UNFCCC Secretariat published summary reports of the fourth round of the multilateral assessment of developed countries’ progress toward achieving the quantified economy-wide emission limitation and reduction targets. Several technical assessments of developing countries’ actions regarding forest reference emission levels and biennial update reports (BURs) were also made available.
Fourth Round of the Multilateral Assessment of 24 Developed Countries Completed
The multilateral assessment is the second stage of the international assessment and review (IAR) process. The IAR process aims to promote the comparability of efforts among all developed country parties’ quantified economy-wide emission limitation and reduction targets, and entails two stages. First, there is a technical review of the national reports of each developed country. It is followed by the multilateral assessment, which assesses each developed country’s progress toward meeting these emissions targets. During the multilateral assessment, countries first engage in a three-month question and answer period, then undertake further assessment during a workshop at a session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
At the 45th meeting of the SBI (SBI 45) held in Marrakech, Morocco, in November 2016, Parties undertook the multilateral assessment of 24 developed countries. Most of these countries were EU member States and the EU itself. The EU and its member States illustrated progress in advancing toward collective and individual targets. The EU as a whole shares a quantified economy-wide emissions reduction target of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and reported that in 2015, the EU was 22% below 1990 levels.
Nineteen EU member States reported on their progress toward meeting their domestic emission reductions in accordance with the EU’s effort-sharing decision. Most reported over-achieving or expecting to meet their targets for the sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). For example, Germany, Sweden and Poland reported achieving a 26.9%, 22% and 19.7% reductions below 1990 levels, respectively. Nearly all the member States underlined that their economies grew during the same period. The theme of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was prevalent, underlining that economic growth does not inevitably mean increased emissions.
Outside the EU, four countries underwent multilateral assessments. Among these countries, only Switzerland could report emissions reductions below 1990 levels, stating its 2014 emissions are 9.3% below 1990 levels. New Zealand was optimistic that it is on track to meet its target to reduce emissions by 5% below 1990 levels by 2020 because the emissions intensity of the economy decreased by 34% between 1990 and 2013, although absolute emissions have grown since 1990. Norway reported emissions increases since 1990 but underlined that emissions stabilized after 2008, resulting in an overall increase in GHG emissions of 3.3% in 2013 compared with 1990 levels. Australia has a different baseline year, 2000 instead of 1990. It reported that it is expected to exceed its 2020 target of 5% below 2000 levels.
The multilateral assessment’s primary function is to facilitate accountability and transparency of developed countries achievements toward meeting their mitigation targets. Through the written and oral reports, and particularly through the ensuing discussions, Parties gained greater clarity on the status of developed countries in regards to the emissions reductions targets. For example, many questions addressed the methodologies used by developed countries to tally emissions and removals in their GHG inventories. This signals the role of the multilateral assessment to build trust among Parties through enhanced transparency. While not all countries delivered good news, many countries are on track to meet their targets. Even for those who are not on track, there is a clearer picture of where these countries stand and how they seek to meet their targets.
The learning and experience sharing function of the multilateral assessment could be increasingly important as climate governance moves toward an evolved transparency regime under the Paris Agreement.
Beyond providing transparency of developed countries’ progress, the multilateral assessment proved an opportunity to share experiences and shed light not only on what developed countries achieved, but how they reached their respective outcomes. Developed and developing countries asked questions to the reporting countries to gain further clarity on their policies and results achieved through those policies. Nearly every country highlighted the role of carbon pricing, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Italy, Croatia and Austria reported successful experience with feed-in tariffs for electricity from renewable sources, and, with Finland, noted a role for biofuels as an alternative energy source for transportation. The fourth round of the multilateral assessment showed that it is also becoming a forum facilitating mutual learning and experience sharing among countries regarding mitigation policy.
This learning and experience sharing function of the multilateral assessment could be increasingly important as climate governance moves toward an evolved transparency regime under the Paris Agreement. All countries engaged in the multilateral assessment, and gained insights from these countries on successful policies, challenges and common methodologies, which could be useful in the formulation of their nationally-determined contributions (NDCs). [Summary Reports on the Multilateral Assessment of: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, EU, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK]
Mauritania’s and Montenegro’s BURs Reviewed
Developing countries also participate in the transparency regime, through the submission of BURs. The Secretariat published the technical analysis of Mauritania’s and Montenegro’s first BUR. These technical analyses are the first step in the international consultation and analysis (ICA) process used to increase transparency of developing countries’ efforts. The next step is a workshop for the facilitative sharing of views to provide an opportunity to discuss developing countries’ experiences and challenges in implementing climate change policies.
The ICA process holds some similarities to the IAR process. Both involve a technical review of the countries’ reports, followed by an opportunity for other countries to review and discuss the information. However, there are notable differences. The ICA is for developing countries and considers their mitigation actions in the context of their domestic priorities. Through the technical reviews, the ICA also aims to contribute toward building non-Annex I countries capacity for reporting, which will help improve the quality their BURs over time. [Technical Analysis of the first BUR of Mauritania and Montenegro]
Forest Reference Emission Levels of Paraguay, Peru and Indonesia Assessed
The Secretariat published three technical assessments of forest reference emission levels for Paraguay, Peru and Indonesia. Under the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries), countries develop their own forest reference emissions level on a voluntary basis, which is then subject to a technical assessment.
The technical reviews are both a technical exercise to facilitate transparency and a capacity-building effort to help countries construct levels against which they can measure their reductions in emissions from deforestation and degradation. They assess the extent to which information provided by Paraguay, Peru and Indonesia were in accordance with the guidelines for submissions of information on forest reference emission levels and facilitate an exchange of information to support the country’s efforts and future improvement of forest reference emissions levels.
The technical assessments are an important step for countries seeking to realize the full potential of REDD+. The third and final phase of REDD+ is demonstrating results, in other words emissions reductions, and receiving payment based on those results. Such a demonstration requires technical capacity to monitor and measure emissions reductions over time, and transparency to build trust that those reductions are measured against meaningful reference emissions level. Completing this assessment puts Paraguay, Peru and Indonesia on the next step to fulfilling the promise of REDD+ in their countries, to receive payments for demonstrated emissions reductions. [Technical Assessment of the Proposed Forest Reference Emission Level of: Paraguay, Peru and Indonesia]
This issue of the Transparency and Compliance Update is the eleventh in a series produced by IISD RS. It aims to provide an overview of reporting activities by UNFCCC Parties, as well as the related monitoring and assessment work carried out by the UNFCCC Secretariat and other organizations.