For country commitments to form the basis of an effectively functioning agreement, a framework of international climate machinery needs to be built around them. This will require a COP decision mandating that negotiations conclude in a legally binding instrument that contains the following specified mechanisms and institutions.
A matter of record: schedule or registry
All countries’ commitments and actions would be formally registered at Copenhagen which requires creation of an official registry or schedule. These could be amended post- Copenhagen only in order to make them more ambitious. Support pledged by developed countries for developing country actions would also be included.
Comparing apples with apples: common international standards
When the post-2012 international climate agreement comes into effect, it is critical that countries employ both common methodologies to track greenhouse gas emissions and common international accounting standards. Without such rules, comparing emission reduction actions taken by different countries will be like comparing apples and oranges. Such rules will also be important to enable a global carbon market to operate effectively and help drive down the cost of climate change mitigation.
The agreement would therefore include common international accounting and reporting standards for countries taking on targets in four key areas: 1) comprehensive reporting and review of national GHG emissions; 2) common standards for quantifying, reporting, and reviewing emission reductions, including from changes in land use, land-use change, and forestry; 3) common standards for national GHG registries and 4) common methodologies for estimating emission reductions from developing country projects or programs funded by developed countries (known as offsets).
Measuring in order to manage: verification
A robust mechanism to measure, report and verify the commitments and actions that countries agree to take is critical to promote trust between nations, and to ensure that promised greenhouse gas reductions actually materialize. This would include deployment of expert review teams to assess country efforts. Delivery of the support that developed countries pledge to developing countries would also be measured, reported and verified. An Implementation Committee would be established, providing a forum for expert review teams to share findings with countries. The UNFCCC Conference of the Parties could be mandated to encourage countries to meet their obligations and empowered to find a country out of compliance. Tools to encourage compliance could include possible suspension of a country’s rights and privileges under the agreement.
Applying the latest science: review mechanism
It is critically important that the Copenhagen agreement remains consistent with the latest science on climate change. This will require institutionalized reviews to help ensure that countries’ collective commitments meet the objectives the world has set. The first would review countries’ efforts in light of the latest IPCC review of science in 2014. Further emergency reviews could be triggered by a group of countries if new scientific evidence warrants swifter attention than scheduled in the agreement.