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A Pathway to a Climate Change Agreement in 2015: Options for Setting and Reviewing GHG Emission Reduction Offers

The UNFCCC Parties need to put forward emission reduction offers as part of the 2015 climate change agreement that is currently being negotiated. This paper suggests options for the design of this process, including the content of the offers and how they will be reviewed. Ensuring that this process is properly designed will be essential to creating an agreement that encourages a low-carbon, sustainable world.

Executive Summary

Parties are deliberating the architecture of the 2015 climate change agreement, creating the next set of commitments that draws from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and national experiences to build a regime that is ambitious, fair, and durable. A core part of that architecture is mitigation, or the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. How should Parties fairly and ambitiously commit to reducing GHG emissions in a way that builds confidence in the international system and that drives collective action in order to keep global temperature rise below 2° Celsius?

Previously, the answer focused on two fundamentally different approaches: whether Parties would put forward whatever they were willing to do without international input or guidance or whether Party commitments would be internationally negotiated and determined with little focus on what a country initially put forward. For the post–2020 regime, however, neither approach appears adequate. Instead, we need to bring together the best of each approach and create a new mitigation architecture that both drives ambition and equity and is deeply embedded in national economies. How can we do that? Finding the right mixture between national ownership and multilateral coherence is challenging but essential.

To keep temperature increase limited to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, much greater ambition, particularly from Parties that are currently major GHG emitters (or will be in the decades to come) is required. At the same time, that level of ambition must be shared equitably, taking both past and future contributions to climate change, as well as other factors, into consideration. As each Party considers how it is going to contribute to solving the world’s largest collective challenge, questions arise as to how each country should put forward its next emission reduction offer to the global community and what role the international community has in informing the offer of each country. It is clear that every country must facilitate its own national conversation on what constitutes an ambitious and fair offer. The question is: How should the international community facilitate the global conversation on these national offers, noting that the actions of one Party could have a large impact on the realities of many Parties?

A Pathway to a Climate Change Agreement in 2015: Options for Setting and Reviewing GHG Emission Reduction Offers proposes the idea of “levels” of guidance that start out simply, for example, with a common set of parameters on items such as the greenhouse gases covered by the offers and global warming potentials used and moves to levels of greater complexity. Various ways of interjecting ambition and equity into the process, from start to review, are also considered, as experience has shown that without a systematic and more frequent approach to submitting offers and reviewing them, an agreement will not drive the level of reductions needed to stay below 2°C.

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