Don’t You Forget CGE

Before Nationally Determined Contributions and Capacity-Building, there was the Consultative Group of Experts. The Consultative Group of Experts was established by the 5th Conference of the Parties under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The CGE is the key technical support element under the UNFCCC that assists developing country Parties in meeting their reporting obligations. It provides developing country Parties with technical advice and support to improve their national communications (NCs) and biennial update reports (BURs).

The CGE, being mandated by the UNFCCC in 1999, was supposed to terminate by 2009. After getting reconstituted once (2009 to 2012) and extended twice (2012 to 2013, 2014 to 2018), will reach the end of its mandate next year, when the Implementing Guideline for the Paris Agreement are intended to go into effect. Its Five-Year Work Programme from 2015-2018 focused on five key priorities: (1) Building the capacity of developing country Parties to facilitate implementation of Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) arrangements under the UNFCCC; (2) enhance the sustainability of the national communications of the national communications and biennial update report process; (3) enhance collaboration and cooperation with other global initiatives; (4) enhance communication and outreach; and (5) enhance availability of resources and optimal working arrangements for the operations of the CGE.

Thus far, the CGE has conducted successful regional workshops in Africa and in Asia, involving 52 non-Annex I parties in total. These workshops were organized in collaboration with the Global Support Program. The CGE has also held webinars in collaboration with the Adaptation Committee (AC), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These webinars covered a wide range of topics relevant to non-Annex I Parties’ NCs and BURs, such as the MRV Framework and climate change scenarios. The CGE also has a free e-learning course on national GHG inventory systems, mitigation assessment, and vulnerability and adaptation assessment. These projects have allowed non-Annex I Parties like Indonesia and Uruguay to submit their respective NCs and BURs to the UNFCCC Secretariat.

Yet, despite all of CGE’s good work, non-Annex I Parties—now developing country Parties under the Paris Agreement—still lack important capacities that will put them in par with the reporting capabilities of the Annex I parties. The CGE’s 2017 Survey revealed that this lower capability in non-Annex I parties is a result several factors, the most prominent of which are insufficient resources and ineffective institutional arrangements. Governments in developing countries have tight purse strings and often suffer from high turn-over rates. Moreover, they often do not have local institutions that manage the entire reporting process. Financial concerns aside, the CGE attempts to address ineffective institutional arrangements by encouraging and helping developing countries establish these institutions and train their people. For countries with very limited capacity, assistance for the CGE is invaluable.

After all the beneficial work of the CGE, does it have a role to play under the Paris Agreement? The answer to that is simple: We do not know. Once the CGE’s Five-Year Mandate ends, the CGE ceases to operate, unless it is renewed for another period.

The Paris Agreement builds on the UNFCCC and will eventually supersede it. There is no provision in the Paris Agreement that bestows a role on the CGE. The Subsidiary Body for Implementation included this issue on its provisional agenda, but ultimately decided to hold it in abeyance. Therefore, the Parties will not discuss the fate of the CGE in COP 23. Unless the Parties decide to include the role of the CGE in its agenda for SBI 48, the CGE will not be featured in the Paris Agreement’s Implementation Guidelines. Furthermore, the Paris Agreement asks Parties to submit nationally determined contributions. This means that Parties decide on what to submit and how to submit, subject to the basic requirements laid out in the Agreement. Whether the CGE evolves to serve the Parties’ needs under the Agreement depends on whether the Parties remember that the CGE exists to help them.

This does not mean that the CGE will have absolutely no hand in the Parties’ progress towards their goals. The CGE trained some of the developing country Parties. They created material that get passed on from one developing country Party administration to the next. However the CGE’s story ends, the Parties should know that the Paris Agreement would not have been as successful without it.

Teachers Without Borders

In the context of climate change, capacity building focuses upon developing the infrastructure, response and communication mechanisms, access to finance, climate awareness, and human capital of developing countries. This in turn enables the countries to meet carbon emission goals and develop sustainably. Developing countries face significant capacity challenges, which frustrate their ability to carry out their commitments under interactional climate change agreements. These issues stem from a lack of public awareness, shortage of experts and research institutions, insufficient international, aid and domestic political instability.

The COP 23 capacity building session entitled “Balancing International Standards & National Context” further delved into this issue. Speaker John O Niles, representing the Carbon Institute, identified the need of a stable workforce that can measure, report and verify obligations under international agreements as invaluable elements of download (1)effective capacity building. For instance, the Paris Agreement requires “soft” pledges of domestic commitments to take inventories of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), submit national communications, make pledges, and then implement those pledges over time. This essentially requires capacity in the form of a “GHG accountant” at each step of the process to be making assessments and informing policy decisions. Without an active educated workforce, this process falls apart.

Ideal capacity building allows for sustained and transformative development of domestic infrastructure. In other words, ideal projects would lead to the creation of an educated workforce well-equipped and funded to address international climate change obligations. Traditionally, capacity building has taken the form of monetary investment paired with training by experts. These are usually conducted via bilateral and multilateral efforts. This often involves a developing country investing money in consultancy companies which provide training workshops. These short-term assistance projects can be unresponsive or unadaptable to the local customs, political climate, and economic markets. In addition, many are considered high risk investments that deter possible foreign investors. Thus, capacity building has met with many challenges to effective implementation. However, new strategies to implementing capacity building have been gaining traction.

One such expanding  category of capacity building that has met with increased success is the trans-border partnership of academic institutions. These allow for sustained negotiations and trainings between developed institutions and developing countries. For instance, Emory University initiated the Global Climate Initiative by partnering with Nanjing University. This relationship provides mutually beneficial collaboration on climate change issues and trains a new generation of internationally-aware students. Additionally, the Norad Program allows for training of faculty and universities. Norad connects himagesigher education institutions within Ethiopia, Malawi, and Norway. This program develops an educated faculty, improves regional collaboration, and enhances outreach to local communities by their home institutions. These partnerships between academia and developing governments is beneficial because it allows national governments and their respective universities to build a qualified workforce.

Who Should Pick Up the Tab for Capacity-Building?

It’s appreciated (or even expected) when the firm’s partner picks up the bill for a new associate, or when a professor treats his student to lunch. Those who are more established and financially secure tend to lend a helping hand to those still making their way in the world. Apparently, this concept does not hold fast on an international scale, particularly when it comes to capacity-building.

iccad-leaning-adaptation_0Article 8 capacity-building measures aim to increase capacity in countries that do not have the expertise, tools, support, and/or knowledge to address climate change. Expectedly, the poorest countries are the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, e.g., threatened water resources, the spread of disease, increased malnutrition, and agriculture. The countries that need increased capacities the most need technical and financial assistance.

So who is going to pick up the tab for international capacity-building efforts? Developing countries point their fingers at the large, industrialized nations that continue to play primary roles in climate change.

Developing countries insist, “it’s not that we don’t want to improve our capacities, but rather that our people tend to be uninformed, uneducated, or limited by national and financial resources.” They say, “you made this mess, now clean it up.” Developing nations firmly hold that developed nations should be required to help less able nations cope with climate change.

Developed countries respond, “it’s not that we don’t want to help, but we would rather concentrate efforts in on our home soil. But good luck!” Major emitters are not eager to share their resources.

Are developing countries hung up on historical responsibility? Are developed nations reluctant to recognize their role and responsibility in the current climate crisis? Upon whom will financial accountability fall when the Paris Agreement is finalized this weekend?ccrd rep