BURs: One Small Decision Leads to Surprising Results!

The Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) is a hot topic at COP24. At the conclusion of COP24 is the deadline for all parties to put their heads together, develop, and finalize provisions for the modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPG) of the ETF. The MPGs might supersede and replace the current transparency framework called measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV). Completion of the MPGs marks a significant milestone for the Paris Agreement. Anticipation to see the final provisions and roll out of the MPGs has already caused ripple effects when it comes to reporting.

The UNFCCC cannot help but celebrate the ongoing progress in transparency. The UNFCCC is observing the fruits of all party’s efforts, despite some resistancbur1_552e, through increase rates of party participation in submitting annual reports, specifically Biennial Update Reports (BURs). The BUR was the brain child of PA parties committed to climate change at COP17 in 2012. BURs are reports submitted by non-Annex I parties. BURs generally contain updates to GHG inventories, mitigation actions, status, needs and support. BURs should be submitted every two years at the time of the first submittal. Least developed country parties (LDC) have the flexibility to submit their first BUR at their discretion. The BURs are purely collaborative and peer-reviewed by international consultation and analysis (ICA). The ICA is made up of teams of experts that consist of PA parties.

Although BURs on their face may not appear to be an exciting process, parties’ implementation, feedback and lessons learned have exciting benefits. At COP24, the UNFCCC hosted a side event which showed the progress of BURs and featured case studies from Brazil and China.

As of today, the UNFCC has received a total of 66 BUR reports. Recent submissions from Brazil and China help serve as ideal case studies for other non-Annex I parties.

When Brazil started preparing its BUR report, little did it know that the BUR would significantly enhance government workflow and increase environmental awareness. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the BUR report and quickly learned the logistical nightmare and resources needed to complete the report. Brazil’s BUR report took about a year to complete. However, after the report was submitted, Brazil conducted a lessons learned exercise and found surprising results. Brazil learned that preparation of the BUR improved communication and exchange between ministries. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) engaged with energy and agriculture agencies, which were unfamiliar with the UNFCCC and the BUR. The MOFA encouraged these officials to participate in BUR workshops and in turn the agencies spurred investigation and internal discussion adopting environmental initiatives in their respective agencies.

China’s BUR had similar benefits compared to Brazil. Lessons learned after China’s first BUR submission revealed adoption of procedures that heightened internal quality assurance and control. Additionally, China started building a national system to archive environmental and climate change data. Even more impressive, China pushed past its reluctant disposition and started sharing emission factor data and best practices with the ICA. China is in progress in submitting its second BUR report and is excited to see the differences from its first report.

The BURs play a key role in helping developing countries establish environmental reporting procedures. BURs can also have the indirect effect of facilitating government cohesion between agencies and pushing countries down a greener path.

As COP24 Approaches, Negotiators Attempt to Narrow Their Focus

GST at UNIn the months leading up to the COP, Parties are in constant discussion. On September 27th, the incoming COP24 Presidency organized an informal consultation in New York, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. The COP23 Presidency, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, and presiding officers all attended, along with thirty-three member states. The Parties’ lead negotiators met to discuss four elements of the potential COP24 outcome in Katowice, Poland: the NDCs process, adaptation, finance, and transparency. As the report of this meeting indicates, one of the issues addressed was “How do we manage the transition from the current transparency system to a future one, while ensuring flexibility for the countries in light of their capabilities?”

In Article 13 of the Paris Agreement, all Parties agreed to an enhanced transparency framework for action and support. This framework has built-in flexibility that accounts for Parties’ different capabilities and circumstances. Article 13.1 announces explicitly that “in order to build mutual trust and confidence and to promote effective implementation, an enhanced transparency framework for action and support, with built-in flexibility which takes into account Parties’ different capacities and builds upon collective experience is hereby established.”  Article 13.2 adds that “the transparency framework shall provide flexibility in the implementation of the provisions of this Article to those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities. The modalities, procedures and guidelines referred to in paragraph 13 of this Article shall reflect such flexibility.” The Parties have been negotiating the exact content of these modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs) since 2015 and have designated COP24 as the deadline for agreeing on them.

A key part of these negotiations is recognizing that some Parties require additional funding toCBIT achieve their reporting and transparency goals. To this end, the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) was established. CBIT’s goal is to strengthen the institutional and technical capabilities of developing countries for collecting and reporting data on progress made on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  This data will then be used to inform the global stocktake (GST), which is a collective assessment of all Parties’ progress on their NDCs toward the Paris Agreement’s Article 2 objective of keeping atmospheric warming to “well below” 2C. The Paris Agreement requested that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) support the establishment of CBIT through voluntary contributions and build donor support. As of December 2017, $61 million had been pledged to the CBIT Trust Fund and $53 million of it had been dedicated to the first 41 projects in 39 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.  Through this support, CBIT has established a Global Coordination Platform that helps and encourages Parties to engage in multilateral and bilateral capacity building initiatives. Parties agree that CBIT is necessary for ensuring a smooth transition to a new transparency system. However, not all Parties agreed on what form the new system should take.

While discussing the scope a new transparency system at the September 27th meeting, Parties suggested that all Parties have the same the submission date for the first biennial transparency report (BTR). Others proposed to have different submission dates for developed and developing Parties. This would reflect the timing each Party required under their CBDRRC. Additionally, while building flexibility into the system, the Parties split into two camps. One side suggested that flexibility be general in nature and by each Party’s national circumstances and capacities, while the other maintained that they be specific and limited to a small number of issues.

preCOPThe next discussion is on October 24th in Krakow at the close of the “pre-COP” meeting hosted by the COP24 Presidency. The suggestions made in New York will be explored and expanded upon by the Parties continuously until the COP. The enhanced transparency network covering mitigation, adaptation, and support is paramount within the PA to informing the GST and allowing parties to aggregate their efforts towards our global goal.

Two Approaches for realizing the Transparency Framework.

The question presented is which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. Articles 13, 14 and 15 prescribe the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. This blog post will focus on Article 13. Article 13 compiles reports of actions taken under other Articles and aims to provide clarity in steps taken to achieve a Party’s NDC under Article 4 and a Party’s adaptation actions under Article 7. Article 13 identifies two separate frameworks for ensuring transparency: a framework for the transparency of actions taken under Articles 4 and 7, and a framework for transparency in providing and receiving support for climate change actions under Article 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11. The APA was tasked with developing the “modalities, guidelines, and procedures” (MGPs) of the transparency framework in the COP 21 decision. Overall, the transparency framework works as an accountability instrument for parties that have ratified the Paris Agreement.

There are many approaches to realizing the transparency framework. This post will focus on two of those approaches. The first approach is the general party approach to focus on the objective of the transparency framework and build from that focus. A discussion paper published by the Institute for Global and Environmental Strategies (IGES) proposes a second approach. This discussion paper proposes four objectives for broadening the goal of the Transparency Framework to include other climate change goals. “The 4 objectives are: (1) achieve comparability to strengthen transparency, (2) build the capacity of government officials through their use of the means to enhance their self-understanding, (3) trigger domestic actions to introduce a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)-cycle with GHG MRV to improve performance, and (4) share lessons learned among the Parties. ”


The party approach tries to increase transparency through working with the original objectives articulated in the Paris Agreement. Those initial goals focus on just reporting for the actions taken under articles 4 and 7 and support given and received for articles 4,7,10,11. In the current COP negotiations, parties are trying to clarify the details of the MGPs of the transparency framework. Therefore, the current approach to the transparency framework only focuses on the reporting guidelines and a consistent picture of how parties are achieving their climate change goals.

The broadened approach tries to integrate other elements into the transparency framework, such as mitigation and capacity building. The expanded approach does this by focusing on “self-analysis.” These self-analyses are where parties try to understand their progress and failures when trying to implement their NDCs domestically. The self-analysis is intended to be the evaluation of whether parties realize their goals in the other sectors. Under this new approach of emphasizing self-evaluation, the transparency framework would take a more instrumental approach in achieving all the targets in the Paris Agreement.

The answer to the initial question of which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement is variable. I think finalizing the MPG will best answer this question, when there is further clarity on what/ how much is to be reported under the Transparency Framework. Further, I believe the second (broadened) approach is ahead of its time.

The Progress of Global Stocktake in the final APA Informal Sessions.

With Global Stocktake’s expected beginning date in 2023 and pressure from the heads of the APA, there is a race for an informal working document on the Modalities Guidelines and Procedures (MPGs) of the Agenda Item 6 of the APA. Global stocktake is an effort to continuously monitor the collective progress towards achieving the purpose and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

On November 12, the APA released the “Revised building blocks for APA item 6 (GST).” These building blocks capture the key elements and commonalities of the proposals made by Parties under Agenda Item 6. This new document contains a table with headings on the left and details on the right. The building blocks contained the headings “Modalities” and “Sources of Input.” Under modalities, the overarching elements provided for “equity regarding process and themes.” However, the term “equity” is never defined in the document. Moreover, the document prescribed an overall process for the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement  (CMA) to implement for GST. This new method includes a preparatory phase (Activity A), a technical phase (Activity B), and a political phase (Activity C). Lastly, the new document prescribes sources of input, which is the information to provide in the GST.
While these simple building blocks were a good start, parties made clear their frustrations with the ambiguity of the text. There were three main concerns. First, individuals were concerned that the table did not reflect more of the information submitted by the parties. Parties felt since this is a working paper,  the paper should reveal more of their inputs. Also, individuals wanted more reference to the Paris Agreement, specifically Articles 8 and 2. Lastly, some parties raised concerns on the silence of issues on Mitigation and Loss & Damage.

Second, the term “equity” is not defined. Some parties understood equity to mean equity in outputs and time to provide and assess resources.  A lot of parties wanted equity defined or were confused on what equity was referencing. Further, there was concern about how equity was going to be integrated into the GST reporting mechanisms.

Third, the starting date of Activity A was also a concern. In the informal table, Activity A starts in 2021 or 2022 to ensure the adequate and timely consideration of the input from AR6 of the IPCC. India specifically raised concerns about the idea of kick-starting the process in 2021 because 2018 is supposed to be an assessment of what is happening pre-2020, GST is supposed to be an assessment what is happening the after 2020 period. Iran proposed options to the date requirement where there is a choice between 2021 and 2022.

Going forward, these revised building blocks have a lot of strides to go, clarity-wise to be ready for the APA chairs.

Points of Divergence: Linkages and Differentiating Obligations under the Transparency Framework

The Transparency Framework under Article 13 of the Paris Agreement covers all components. At least, that is what the Agreement seems to say at first blush. However, as Parties begin to flesh out specific procedures, it is obvious that they disagree with the extent of the Transparency Framework’s coverage.

The Philippines, speaking for the G77 and China negotiating group, emphasized the importance of linking the procedures of the Framework with the provisions on financing. The Philippines went so far as to suggest that such a linkage should receive its own section. Article 9 of the Paris Agreement specifies the reporting requirements for developed country parties, which includes providing qualitative and quantitative information on financial resources to assist developing country Parties in their mitigation and adaptation efforts. The Philippines urged the Parties to consider incorporating the developed country Parties’ obligation under Article 9.1 into the procedures of the Framework.

Credit to the World Resources Institute

Credit to the World Resources Institute

Not surprisingly, the European Union opposed conflating the developed country Parties’ obligations under different articles, stating that Parties come into dangerous fields when they do so. In the European Union’s perspective, the language in Article 9 that refers to biennial reporting obligations is referenced only in party submissions. At most, the procedures in the Transparency Framework can include the Article 9 provisions as an inherent part of the information to be reported under Article 13.9. It does not warrant its own section with subsequent provisions.

Another point of contention is the difference between the reporting requirements for developed country Parties that are mandated to provide support to developing country Parties and the reporting obligations of developing country parties that choose to provide such support. Article 13.9 of the Paris Agreement obligates developed country Parties to provide information on financial, technology transfer, and capacity-building support they provide. It does not impose the same obligation on developing country Parties. Parties do not dispute this. However, they disagree on whether developing country Parties that choose to provide support to fellow developing country Parties should report the same types and quantity of information as their developed country counterparts.

Unlike the issue of linkages mentioned above, developing country Parties negotiating this issue do not all believe that they should be subject to different reporting requirements for the support they provide. Brazil, in particular, stated that developed and developing country Parties should be subject to the same reporting obligations. However, developing country Parties should be afforded some amount of flexibility. Though the Parties are far from agreeing to this proposal, this seems to be a reasonable way of interpreting the text of Article 13.9, especially given Article 13’s emphasis on flexibility.

Further from this proposal is the view of some developed country Parties that the developed and developing country Parties should be subject to the same reporting requirements without any reference to flexibility or common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities (CBDR-RC). Developing country Parties are under no obligation to provide support to others. Their decision to extend support is purely discretionary. Such discretion removes special considerations. While this interpretation is logically sound, it moves further away from the language of the Agreement and is unlikely to meet any significant support.

Overall, progress in establishing the procedures for the Article 13 Transparency Framework has been moving at a glacial pace. Yet, move it has. After much grandstanding in the last few days, it would seem that Parties have calmed enough to openly express agreement on some simple areas. Momentum and urgency will continuously build as Parties approach the end of this negotiating session.

Parties come to decision on transparency framework



APA celebrated a successful transparency framework negotiation with a group photo

Today the subsidiary bodies winded down in preparation for the first session of the CMA to begin tomorrow. Happily, APA discussions around transparency framework modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs); Global Stocktake; and Implementation generally ended on a high note. In particular, the APA informal meeting on transparency framework this morning left parties in good spirits.

The decision was unanimously and enthusiastically adopted by the parties. On Saturday, APA Co-Facilitators created a draft informal note that captured the Parties’ views on transparency framework developments.  This note highlighted a work plan, which includes an organization scheme, tools for success, and future steps for the parties to take regarding the transparency framework.

Several components of the work plan merit highlighting. First, the countries acknowledge work should proceeding in a “balanced, holistic and logical manner.” During discussions today, the importance of this point was reiterated by several parties. In addition, the draft note states that the CMA1 will continue to build on the transparency framework during its session, so the APA’s end does not signal the conclusion of transparency discussions this week. As for the tools under the work plan, the parties intend to use workshops in advance of APA sessions, submissions before intersessional workshops, and potentially technical or synthesis papers in the future. Finally, the next steps include submissions in response to specific questions in the draft decision, and a workshop in 2017 ahead of the Bon conference in May.

Today, the parties met to discuss this draft note. Party after party exuberantly supported the note. In their statements, several parties acknowledged the fantastic cooperation among the group. In fact, China was met with a round of applause when it called for a group photo to commemorate this group’s successful negotiations. More substantively, many parties reiterated support of proceeding quickly in a balanced fashion to achieve the goals of the transparency framework.

While much work remains on the MPGs of the transparency framework, the parties’ enthusiasm for urgent and cooperative work moving forward shows much promise for Bon in May 2017 and beyond. As the backbone of the Paris Agreement, robust transparency framework will set the stage for the parties to meet their goals in other articles of the Agreement as well. These developments, therefore, are key to preventing the global temperature from rising more than 1.5–2 degrees Celsius. In the next few months, parties will begin to address the specific components of the MPGs, enhancing the transparency under the Convention, flexibility for developing countries, and more.

In addition to transparency framework, the APA also wrapped up the discussions on the global stocktake and implementation articles under the Paris Agreement. These items both leave several questions unanswered that parties will work to develop in the coming months.

The APA was scheduled to conclude its session this evening, but at the request of the parties, APA1-2 was suspended. It will resume discussions in May 2017 at Bonn.

Transparency Framework Update

Throughout this first week of COP22, I have followed the progress of the enhanced transparency framework (TF). The Paris Agreement created this TF through articles 13, 14, and 15. Because the TF is new, the discussions started out slowly. However, the Parties agreed that there is a sense of urgency in developing the modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs) of implementing the new TF, as the Paris Agreement was ratified earlier than expected.

The Parties of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Paris Agreement (APA) met several times this week to discuss agenda item 5, relating to the TF in article 13 of the Paris Agreement. The co-facilitators, Andrew Rakestraw (US) and Xiang Gao (China) focused discussions on (1) transparency; (2) flexibility; and (3) national capacity. They presented the Parties with a draft work plan, which includes elements on organization of the work plan (balanced and logical manner that addresses elements of article 13), modalities for the work plan (submissions, technical paper, and workshops), and next steps. Most of the Parties welcomed the work plan. They agreed on a number of next steps: targeted submissions of Parties, and an intersessional workshop that will be forwarded to the co-chairs. The co-facilitators will post an updated work plan this evening, and will meet in a final informal consultation on Monday, Nov. 14, to receive Party reflections on the note.IMG_3806

The APA group met to discuss item 6, the global stocktake (GST) in article 14 of the Paris Agreement, several times this week. Co-facilitators Nagmeldin Elhassan (Sudan) and Ilze Prūse (Latvia) summarized Party inputs on the GST in an informal note. Many Parties requested a technical workshop and a technical paper by the Secretariat, however some Parties did not believe they were ready for technical papers. These Parties would prefer more conceptual work guided by the focused submission. Thus, the co-facilitators are working on incorporating the views of the Parties on next steps in a revised informal note. They will release a revised paper to share at the last meeting on Monday, Nov. 14.

Finally, the APA group met to discuss item 7, article 15 of the Paris agreement several times this week as well. Earlier this week, co-facilitators Peter Horne (Australia) and Janine Felson (Belize) released a set of guiding questions for the Parties. These focus areas included: (1) Scope; (2) capacity and national circumstance; (3) trigger mechanisms; (4) relationship with existing bodies; (5) enabling party participation; and (6) next steps. The co-facilitators then released a short summary of the conversations, and offered guidance for working forward. Today, co-facilitators invited the Parties to submit proposals on (but not limited to): specifying the modalities and procedures in paragraph 102, 103 of 1/CP.21, elaborating the elements the mandate, and sharing views on how to take work further such that it is in line with 1/CP.21. The purpose of these focus questions was to help the Parties develop the concrete details of the mandate; the co-facilitators have appreciated the rich exchange on conceptual ideas, however it is now critical to get down to the concrete details so that it is prepared for the CMA by 2018. The Parties were not prepared to answer these questions today. They may, however, offer recommendations at their final consultation next Monday, Nov. 14.

Modalities, Procedures, and Guidelines (MPGs) for the Transparency Framework of the Paris Agreement

Transparency is critical for building international trust, facilitating progress, and ensuring commitments for climate action. This is why one key outcome of the Paris Agreement last year was the agreement of an enhanced transparency framework (TF) set out in Article 13. Before the Paris Agreement, Annex I Parties and non-Annex I Parties had two different sets of reporting requirements. Once the Paris Agreement is in force, the new TF will apply to all Parties, while allowing flexibility to take into account Parties’ various capacities.

Moroccan Foreign Minister and COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar (L) and French Minister for Environment Segolene Royal launch the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Moroccan Foreign Minister and COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar (L) and French Minister for Environment Segolene Royal launch the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22).

In Bonn this May, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) released a set of questions to the APA Co-Chairs to help guide Parties in their deliberations under APA provisional agenda item 7 (modalities and procedures for the effect operation of the committee in Article 15 of the Paris Agreement) to help prepare for COP22. The APA also invited Parties to submit their views on other agenda items concerning the TF, in hopes of facilitating the TF sessions at COP22.

Today, Nov. 8 2016, the Parties met in several informal consultations to discuss the modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs) of the Paris Agreement’s TF. The MPGs for action and support referred to in Article 13 of the Paris Agreement are not fully developed yet, which is why the Parties met at an informal consultation today to begin discussions and developing a work plan for MPGs of the TF. The Secretariat asked the Parties to discuss and prioritize the following three main topic areas:

(1) what should be the key elements of the modalities, procedures, and guidelines for the TF? (2) with respect to the elements identified under question 1, how should experience from the existing MRV arrangements under the Convention inform the MPGs and how should flexibility for those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities be reflected? and (3) how should we organize work in 2017 and 2018 to ensure that the MPGs are created on time?

At this consultation, Brazil and Singapore both emphasized the urgency to complete a work plan given the tight timeline (the Paris Agreement was ratified almost four years before most Parties expected), and therefore believed that creating a work plan was the most important issue. The European Union (EU) emphasized its desire to focus on clarifying the MPGs in terms of the “flexibility” aspect of the TF. The EU stated that the submissions of the Parties in response to the APA questions after Bonn already provide a lot of information, so the APA should draw on those submissions and move forward here at COP22.

All Parties agreed on the need for a pragmatic approach to design a system and be deliberate to use the information available, while seeking staff and tech means to finance the work as well. There will be three more meetings on the MPGs of Article 13, at which the Parties will seek to develop a work plan to be completed by 2018. Hopefully these meetings will develop effective MPGs for the TF before leaving Marrakech