Navigating the Paris Rulebook
Common Time Frames: Deeper Dive
1.1. Technical Details
Parties have only reached partial agreement on NDC time frames in decision 6/CMA.1. Therefore, the following content can only examine the decisions reached and note some of the key outstanding elements in the negotiations. For more on NDC common time frames, please see Dagnet and Cogswell (2019). To structure this exploration and provide some guidance for implementation, the discussion is focused on the key questions of who, what, when, and where; for more on this approach, please see the associated methodology.
WHO? (FURTHER EXPLANATION OF “WHO”)
Decision 6/CMA.1, para. 2 notes that “Parties shall apply common time frames…”
WHAT? (FURTHER EXPLANATION OF “WHAT”)
Negotiators are currently discussing a wide range of options. However, the discussions largely build off two main options—a five-year time frame or a 10-year time frame—and include several derivatives of each of these core options. For the last couple of years, Parties have discussed a number of different options. The options most frequently discussed in the negotiations include derivatives from the options depicted in the following graphic.
As Parties developed their initial NDCs, available guidance did not prescribe a specific time frame but rather asked Parties to include their “time frames and/or periods for implementation” as an element of information to provide clarity, transparency, and understanding of the NDC. Given the nationally-determined nature of the NDCs and selected time frames suitable to their domestic context leading to a variety of time frames across the NDCs.
As negotiators continue to consider options for common time frames, it is important to consider relevant previous decisions. The following table presents a number of the previous decisions and agreed language and provides a short discussion of the relevance and possible implications of each decision on the ongoing negotiations.
|Relevant Decision||Possible Implications for the Ongoing Negotiations|
|Paris Agreement, Article 4, paragraph 3 “Each Party’s successive nationally determined contribution will represent a progress beyond the Party’s then current nationally determined contribution and reflect its highest possible ambition . . .” Paris Agreement, Article 4, paragraph 9 “Each Party shall communicate a nationally determined contribution every five years in accordance with decision 1/CP.21 and any relevant decisions of the [CMA] and be informed by the outcomes of the global stocktake . . . ”||Paragraph 9 does not specifically address common time frames but does provide important information regarding NDCs. Irrespective of the time frame of the NDC, this paragraph notes that NDCs must be communicated every five years. Paragraph 9 should be read in conjunction with Article 4, paragraphs 2 and 3 so that the NDC communicated every five years is a “successive NDC” representing progression beyond the existing NDC.|
|Paris Agreement, Article 4, paragraph 10 “The [CMA] shall consider common time frames for nationally determined contributions at its first session.”||This paragraph required the CMA to begin negotiations on the issue of common time frames. A year later, at CMA1-1 in Marrakech, Parties decided to refer the topic to the Subsidiary Body for Implementation for consideration and further deliberations. This paragraph did not prejudge any decision to apply common time frames or to define the length of a time frame. The paragraph only noted that Parties needed to consider these questions.|
|Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 23 “Requests those Parties whose intended nationally determined contribution pursuant to decision 1/CP.20 contains a time frame up to 2025 to communicated by 2020 a new nationally determined contribution and to do so every five years thereafter pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 9 of the Agreement.” Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 24 “Also requests those Parties whose intended nationally determined contribution pursuant to decision 1/CP.20 contains a time frame up to 2030 to communicate or update by 2020 these contributions and to do so every five years thereafter pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 9 of the Agreement.”||Paragraphs 23 and 24 have received significant focus in the discussions related to common time frame because of their instructions to Parties on the NDCs to be communicated in 2020 and because of their use of the phrase “time frame.” These paragraphs also suggest that time frames have a distinct end date, by noting “a time frame up to” 2025 or 2030. Paragraph 24 asks Parties to “communicate or update” their 2030 contributions. Paragraph 23, though, asks Parties to communicate a new NDC, but does not specify the time frame for this new NDC. Those who, in 2015, communicated a time frame up to 2025 may be inclined to communicate, in 2020, a time frame up to 2030. These Parties could, however, submit an NDC with a different time frame. In the authors’ view, the instructions provided in these paragraphs apply only to NDCs communicated in 2020 (and those that may come in 2021 due to delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic). Further, although these paragraphs may provide some precedent useful to the common time frames discussion, it is not necessary for a substantive decision on the length of a time frame to reference or build from the instructions provided in these paragraphs, i.e., a decision on common time frames does not need to follow the same formulation as presented here. In negotiating a decision on common time frames, Parties do not have to follow the pattern described in these paragraphs. Rather, they could choose whether or not to use elements of this language in a decision on common time frames.|
|Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 27 “Agrees that the information to be provided by Parties communicating their [NDCs], in order to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding, may include, as appropriate . . . time frames and/or periods for implementation . . . ” Decision 4/CMA.1, paragraph 7 “Decides that, in communicating their second and subsequent [NDCs], Parties shall provide the information necessary for clarity, transparency and understanding contained in annex I as applicable to their [NDC] . . . ” Decision 4/CMA.1, Annex, paragraph 2a “Time frame and/or period for implementation, including start and end date, consistent with any further relevant decision adopted by the [CMA].”||Regardless of what timeframe is agreed, Parties will need to communicate it. As part of the information necessary for clarity, transparency, and understanding of NDCs, Parties need to provide information on the “time frames and/or periods of implementation.” This is critical information to be included with the communication of NDCs. The decision from CMA1 (2018) provides further guidance than the previous decisions, by noting that Parties should include the start and end date of their NDCs. This is also the first time that the decision language implies that a time frame has both a start and end date. Paragraphs 23 and 24 of decision 1/CP.21 had previously indicated that a time frame would have an end date. The start date, end date, and implementation period are not all independent variables. If the start date and the length of the implementation period are defined, the end date is de facto defined.|
|Decision 6/CMA.1, paragraph 2 “Decides that Parties shall apply common time frames to their nationally determined contributions to be implemented from 2031 onward.”||Heading into COP24/CMA1, Parties had three key questions to answer:
Source: Table is reproduced, with minor clarifications, in its entirety from Dagnet and Cogswell (2019).
WHEN? (FURTHER EXPLANATION OF “WHEN”)
Common time frames are to be applied to NDCs “to be implemented from 2031 onward” (6/CMA.1, para. 2). The decision does not specify when NDCs “to be implemented from 2031 onward” are to be communicated. For the reasons described above, many Parties argue that NDCs are to be communicated five years before their implementation is to begin (an NDC being implemented from 2031 would be communicated in 2025). However, others maintain that implementation is to begin following communication (an NDC being implemented from 2031 would be communicated in 2030). Decision 6/CMA.1 does not answer this question.
WHERE? (FURTHER EXPLANATION OF “WHERE”)
The time frame for a Party’s NDC will be reflected in the Party’s NDC. Specially, in the information to promote clarity, transparency, and understanding, Parties are to provide the “time frames and/or periods for implementation” of their NDC.
1.2. Linkages with Other Elements of the Paris Agreement
Various elements of the Paris Agreement Rulebook are linked together, both implicitly and explicitly. These linkages build the Agreement’s plan-implement-review cycle and will support the implementation of the Agreement. This discussion details some of the linkages with common time frames, building on the efforts first elaborated in Dagnet et al. (2017) and Dagnet et al. (2018), and including updated information from the final decisions reached by the CMA.
NDC Mitigation Elements. Decision 4/CMA.1, Annex I, para. 2(a) notes that Parties must provide “time frame and/or period for implementation, including start and end date” as part of the information to facilitate clarity, transparency, and understanding. Further, the decision notes that time frame and/or period for implementation be “consistent with any further relevant decision adopted by the [CMA].” This is a reference to the decision on common time frames, which would define, in part, the period for implementation of NDCs.
Cooperative Implementation (Article 6). Even though the negotiations are ongoing for both common time frames and Article 6, the decision on common time frames will be linked to efforts under Article 6. The decision on common time frames is likely to define, in part, the period for implementation of NDCs during which Parties may be trading mitigation outcomes. As Parties grapple with the accounting rules and procedures for trading mitigation outcomes, defining NDC periods for implementation becomes extremely important.
Enhanced Transparency Framework. Under the enhanced transparency framework, Parties must “provide an assessment of whether it has achieved the target(s) for its NDC” in the “first biennial transparency report that contains information on the end year or end of the period of its NDC” (18/CMA.1, para. 70). The decision on common time frames will provide greater clarity on the end year/period of NDCs and thus define exactly when Parties would provide assessments of achievement of their NDC targets. A single common time frame will also align this reporting so that all Parties report on progress toward implementing and achieving their NDCs at the same point in the NDC cycle.
Global Stocktake. The global stocktake will consider the “overall effect of Parties’ [NDCs] and overall progress made by Parties towards the implementation of the [NDCs]” (19/CMA.1, para. 36b). These outcomes are to inform Parties as they update and enhance their NDCs (Paris Agreement, Article 14.3). Parties are to communicate an NDC every five years (Paris Agreement, Article 14.9) and each successive NDC is to represent the highest possible ambition (Paris Agreement, Article 14.3). The outcomes of the global stocktake will inform future NDCs. Further, “if all Parties use the same time frame, they will all be at the same point in NDC implementation during the global stocktake. This may facilitate collective understanding on progress made in implementing and achieving NDCs” (Dagnet and Cogswell 2019).