Calls by the US and Australia for tougher requirements on how developing countries’ emissions are reported on and checked have met with fierce resistance
Buried in the detail of the Paris Accord could be some innocuous-looking words that will have a powerful impact on whether it ever delivers the greenhouse gas reductions it promises.
The words could “paper over” deep divisions about whether countries ever have to properly report and account for the promised emission reductions that collectively limit global warming to the already-dangerous 2.7 degrees.
Key to the negotiations will be a trade off between developing countries’ demands for financing to reduce their own emissions and adapt to locked-in climate change and the insistence by both rich nations like the United States and climate-vulnerable countries like the small island states that every country should be required to at least work towards the same rules for reporting and checking their emission reductions.
Since the pledges in the Paris Accord will not be legally binding and the more stringent rules applied to developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol are almost certain to lapse in five years, the direction set for this new set of reporting and checking rules is important to ensure the agreement delivers what it promises for the climate.
Countries like India claim the existing rules under the overarching UN framework convention on climate change are fine.
Dr Ajay Mathur, director general of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency in Delhi, said there was “no need to spend time again negotiating new reporting guidelines and rules when we already have rules that apply to everybody and give necessary flexibility to developing countries.”
But those rules have far softer requirements for how and what developing countries report about their emission reductions. They do not require comprehensive reporting and do not force countries to detail how they are tracking towards the target they have pledged or to project their future greenhouse gas emissions. And the system for “expert review” of developing country reports is far less onerous than the in-country checking for developed nations.
Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, said allowing the current system to continue was “not feasible” and would represent a “complete failure at the Paris talks”.