Reviewing and Verifying International Climate Action

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Reviewing and Verifying International Climate Action: “

Climate change is a global issue
that requires action from all
countries. As the U.S. Congress
develops a domestic climate
and energy package, the United
States seeks assurance that
other countries will also act and
a means to track the progress of
commitments by verifying that
actions have been implemented.

Climate change is a global issue that requires action from all countries. As the U.S.
Congress develops a domestic climate and energy package, the United States is
seeking assurance that other countries will act and that there is a means to track
the progress of commitments by verifying that actions have been implemented.

This is an important issue in the international climate change negotiations
which will convene in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009. One of the
reasons the United States stands to benefit from an international agreement
on climate change is that it can provide the needed system of verification to
assure effort by all nations and a level playing field.
Other countries are acting or pledging action on clean energy. Examples include:

  • Mexico has pledged to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • China’s climate change program includes reducing energy intensity per unit
    of GDP by 20 percent between 2006 and the end of 2010 and increasing
    non-fossil fuel-based and renewable energy to 15 percent of the energy mix
    by 2020.
  • Brazil has said it will reduce its deforestation rate 70 percent from recent
    levels by 2017.
  • Indonesia announced in September that it would craft a policy to cut emissions
    by 26 percent by 2020 from ‘business as usual’ levels.
    As countries come forward with national commitments, the international
    community will need common procedures and processes to verify actions.

A structure of international verification is not a new concept.
China and other countries participate in review under the
Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion, the nuclear nonproliferation
treaty, the International Monetary Fund and the World
Trade Organization. Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency is working in China and other countries to build capacity
on monitoring and verification. These systems demonstrate
that an international system of accountability is feasible
and can provide a workable structure for verification of action
on ambitious international goals. Copenhagen offers an
opportunity to put forward a new climate policy verification
approach.

Review and Verification in the International Climate Framework

The United States is party to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which
requires that countries report on their efforts to reduce
greenhouse gases and support emissions reduction (mitigation)
in other countries. This reporting is done through
national inventories and national communications. National
inventories report quantitative information on
countries’ greenhouse gas emissions and their removal,
while national communications report on a wider range
of activities related to climate change, including policies,
adaptation efforts, and research.

The concept of verifying what countries are doing to mitigate
greenhouse gases has become know in UNFCCC language
as the pledging of actions and commitments in a way that is
‘measurable, reportable and verifiable’ (MRV). This term was
coined in the Bali Action Plan, the roadmap for the current
climate negotiations agreed upon by the United States and
other nations at the UN climate meeting in 2007. The plan
calls for mitigation (emissions reduction) commitments and
actions by both developed and developing countries, as well
as support for the actions of developing countries in the form
of technology transfer, financing and capacity building. According
to the plan, these commitments, actions, and support
would all be ‘measurable, reportable and verifiable.’

How International Review Helps the United States

Clear rules for how countries will measure, report and
verify their actions will be useful in the U.S. climate and
energy debate. U.S. stakeholders have wanted reassurance
that other countries, including developing countries
such as China, are acting. A strong international reporting
and verification system can improve confidence regarding
other countries’ actions. U.S. legal compliance with
future domestic climate policy must also be transparent
and communicated internationally.

Building on Review and Verification in the UNFCCC

The UNFCCC’s structure of national inventories and national
communications forms a basis for a system of transparent
measurement, reporting and verification. However, a new
agreement will need to strengthen this framework, to ensure
robust reporting from all countries, of commitments, actions
and support. To help achieve such an outcome, developed
countries such as the United States can provide financial and
technical support to build the capacity for measuring, reporting
and verifying actions in developing countries. There are
several proposals being discussed under the UNFCCC climate
negotiations on ways in which the current framework can be
improved. Also, an international verification system needs to
be harmonized across countries, and the methods used must
be comparable in all nations.

An international climate agreement that has a robust
global system of measuring, reporting, and verifying can
provide assurances for the United States that other countries
are implementing their commitments. This type of
international assurance can complement and support U.S.
domestic action.

(Via WRI Stories Feed: All.)

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