In the lead-up to the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties 15 in Copenhagen, in December 2009, it became very clear that issues around accountability and transparency in greenhouse gas accounting were going to be a central focus. While the Kyoto Protocol includes robust accounting standards for industrialized countries, it was looking as if a new ‘pledge and review’ system’ would do away with those standards, thus removing any ability to compare the efforts of countries or create a common understanding of what is occurring country to country. In addition, increased transparency around developing country actions was becoming not only central but controversial, creating tension between the U.S. and China.
WRI identified these issues early on and worked to ensure that the complex but vital accounting topic was understood as a core outcome of the Copenhagen process. WRI also worked with key partners to provide analysis and textual solutions both on why Annex I accounting rules were vital and why it was possible for the US to sign up to these standards.
WRI used its analysis to increase awareness in the U.S. with the White House, Senate and State Department of the importance of the issue and with other countries to provide solutions and context. This work directly resulted in specific text around developed country, or Annex I, targets in the Copenhagen Accord around the need to “ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent” (REF) a hook to building the system we need. No other institution was focused heavily on this outcome. WRI also started working early in China to increase understanding both in China and internationally concerning what systems for Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) China already has in place, thus highlighting where transparency existed and could be enhanced in China. We engaged top Chinese experts and negotiators more than a year before Copenhagen on these issues and continued to provide solutions throughout the UNFCCC meeting. WRI was far ahead of other organizations in providing both the analysis and the space to create understanding and trust among countries. While the issue became polarized during the meeting, it is fair to say that WRI’s background work provided a basis for the final transparency text in the Copenhagen Accord.