The Paris Agreement created an international framework outlining what governments and wider stakeholders need to do to strengthen the global response to climate change and limit the temperature increase to 1.5 - 2 degrees C. The international community now needs to flesh out how the global response will be orchestrated.
The Paris Agreement’s “rule book” will establish the rules and processes needed to provide the operational guidance for fulfilling the ambition of the Agreement and providing clarity on countries’ efforts to reach the global goal. It will include details on several fronts:
How countries will communicate their efforts with regards to adaptation, climate finance, transfer of technology and capacity building, and how they will be held accountable for their commitments;
How collective efforts will be reviewed, leading to scaled-up actions and support every five years; and
How to create a process to facilitate implementation and promote compliance.
Why Does it Matter?
The rules are critically important in order to promote robust, ambitious and effective action on the ground in countries. There are three main reasons why the rules of the game need to be carefully crafted.
We need to better measure and manage climate action and support. The varying quality and level of information included in countries’ national climate plans, called their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), or in their national reports, prevents the full assessment of individual and collective efforts, and can limit the development of trust among countries.
We need to scale up actions and support at the right pace. The NDCs submitted by countries are not ambitious enough to achieve the Paris Agreement’s objectives, since according to the latest UNEP Gap Report, they’ll only limit warming to 3.0 degree C if fully implemented and the conditions highlighted in the submissions are met. Hence, we’ll need effective mechanisms to take stock of progress made, to identify and seize opportunities for further actions, and increase collective efforts, starting in 2018.
We must design the rules in a way that preserves environmental integrity and prevents free-riding. Without robust rules, emissions reductions or support provided could be counted twice, resulting in actual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions being higher or support mobilized being lower than what is reported.
How Complex and Challenging Is the Task?
The design of the transparency and accountability framework is particularly complex.
Timing: With the Agreement’s entry into force faster than expected by many, the first session of the Agreement’s governing body, CMA1 (the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement) will open at COP 22 in Marrakech. It will likely need to be extended beyond COP 22 to allow enough time (two years) to design these important rules in an inclusive and participatory manner.
Political sensitivities: Unlike the current measurement reporting and verification regime, which sets different requirements for developed and developing countries, the new transparency framework sets more robust provisions that are applicable to all countries. However, Parties agreed in the Paris Agreement that the new regime must include “build-in flexibility” to accommodate countries’ differing capabilities and allow them to improve the quality of the submitted information over time. The negotiations in Marrakech must prevent falling back into a bifurcated approach, and instead start a constructive discussion of how flexibility can work within a common approach.
Capacity needs: Although significant efforts have been undertaken to build capacity in developing countries, many developing countries still lack the necessary support, tools, technical expertise and institutional capacity to fulfill their existing and new requirements, especially for transparency. Failure to address these capacity needs may undermine developing countries’ readiness to fully engage in the design of the rules.
Web of complex, interconnected issues: As highlighted in the paper Staying on Track from Paris: Advancing the Key Elements of the Paris Agreement, before engaging in a detailed drafting exercise, Parties need to figure out ow the outputs of the transparency framework will inform the review of collective efforts or trigger consideration of non-compliance, and how to align the information requirements for NDCs and national progress reports.
Effectiveness of the process: Establishing and implementing the rules of the game for 196 countries is more complex and resource intensive than for the 41 countries under the Kyoto Protocol, in view of the diverse types of actions and the different stages of development of the countries involved. How the ambition mechanisms created in Paris will effectively drive ambition and nationally-driven approaches remains to be seen. Negotiators will need to carefully examine and build upon existing processes within and outside the UNFCCC.
What to Expect at COP22?
Negotiators will not adopt the rule book in Marrakech given the short timeframe to address the key issues highlighted above. But significant discussions will take place in plenaries, during side events and behind the scenes to clarify concepts and manage some sensitive issues.
By the end of the two negotiating weeks, we expect five main outcomes:
Lessons will be learned from the existing review process and emerging from the workshops and negotiating sessions scheduled during the COP, helping to inform efforts to make the new regime more robust and effective.
We will have a game plan to finalize the rules, modalities, guidelines and procedures by no later than 2018, outlining how the various bodies under the convention will work together and inform each other.
Inputs to the ambition mechanisms will be elaborated upon, including from the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
2018 will be set as a critical year both for adoption of the rulebook and for use of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue as a springboard for an enhanced, more ambitious round of NDCS by 2020, maintaining a chance to peak emissions by 2020 as recommended by science.
The development of the rule book is unlikely to steal the headlines in Marrakech. The negotiations should, however, provide assurance that we do have a clear and credible road map to design and adopt a robust, effective implementation package by no later than 2018. This is critical to maintain trust among countries and facilitate a participatory and equitable transition to a decarbonized economy.