TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Oct12/01)
3 October 2012
Third World Network

Need for higher mitigation ambition and comparability of effort among developed countries

Geneva, 3 October (Dale Wen) – Developing countries called for higher mitigation ambition on the part of developed countries and for a comparability of mitigation effort among them. They also called for the establishment of common accounting rules for developed country emission reductions.

These calls were made at a workshop on quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets by developed country Parties convened in Bangkok on 2 September, under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) which met on 30 August to 5 September. The session was facilitated by Mr. Andrej Kranjc (Slovenia).

The first panel addressed approaches to measure the progress towards achievement of the targets by developed country Parties, which was moderated by Ms Thelma Krug, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Representatives from five countries made remarks from the panel viz. Switzerland, St. Lucia, South Africa, the United States and New Zealand.

The second panel dealt with the ambition of the pledges by developed country Parties and related assumptions and conditions, and was co-moderated by Mr. John Christensen of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Mr. Dennis Tirpak of World Resources Institute. Representatives from the following countries constitued the panel: Norway, Brazil, Belarus, Marshall Islands, Bolivia, the Russian Federation, Australia, China, the European Union and Mali.

Workshop facilitator Kranjc, provided an informal summary of the workshop (dated 4 September) which was made available on the UNFCCC website. Some highlights of the informal summary are as follows:

As regards Panel 1 on the ‘Approaches to measure the progress towards the achievement of targets by developed country Parties’, “in relation to economy-wide emission reduction targets, Parties provided further clarity on the diverse set of assumptions and conditions associated with targets; the base year, the Global Warming Potential values, the coverage of gases and sectors, the use of inventory methodologies, and the level of commonality of approaches; different conditions associated with the use of carbon credits from market-based mechanisms and LULUCF (Land Use, land-Use Change and Forestry); the importance of the transparency of information in measuring the progress towards the targets, which could be enhanced through biennial reporting and the process of international assessment and reporting.”

“On accounting rules, Parties stressed the importance of rules-based approach to measure the progress towards targets and to avoid double-counting of emission reductions; the importance of harmonization of approaches across Parties, noting the need for flexibility to take into account national circumstances; the importance of consistency with the Kyoto Protocol framework when accounting for carbon credits; the differences in measuring the progress between Parties implementing their targets with pathways to transform them into carbon budgets and those Parties with targets for a single year.”

“On the role of carbon credits from market-based mechanisms, Parties highlighted the need for further information on the expected role of market-based mechanisms; that off-setting should not be seen as a means to maintain a business-as-usual path.”

In relation to Panel 2 on the issue of the ‘Ambition of pledges by developed country Parties’, “Parties provided their views on the importance of the equity principle in the context of ambition; the mitigation efforts needed to close the emission gap (ranging from 6 to 11 Gt CO2eq in 20202) in the lead up to and beyond 2020 in the context of staying within the goal of keeping the temperature rise below 2 °C; the urgency of enhancing efforts in order to follow an indicative emission pathway that is compatible with the long-term emission projections, based on the IPCC assessment, UNEP Emissions Gap report and other scientific studies; the need to close the ambition gap based on good science, recognizing that changes in global and regional economies can drastically affect our ability to make emission projections as demonstrated by the period of the early 1990s in Eastern Europe and more recently by the global recession of 2008-2009; the need to broaden the number of mitigation actions and Parties making pledges, enhancing current pledges and adding new commitments to close the ambition gap; the importance of domestic policies by developed country Parties to move to emission reduction levels in line with the IPCC ranges…”

On the issue of comparability of mitigation efforts among developed countries, Parties highlighted that “comparability of efforts as a requirement of the Bali Action Plan for developed country Parties and the importance of information on such comparability for the outcomes of the 2013–2015 review; the need for a process to gradually improve data, capabilities and metrics in order to facilitate consideration of comparability and further clarify targets; three aspects of comparability deemed important by some Parties: the legal nature of commitments, accounting rules and associated compliance arrangements; the possibility of establishing panels on comparability and compliance; that comparability can help build trust and confidence in making pre- and post-2020 pledges.”

In Panel 1 of the workshop held on 2 September, Switzerland said it is important to understand that clarification (of the targets) is not (about) compliance, but to provide information regarding gaps, comparability, assumptions and conditions. St. Lucia, referring to the submission by the Alliance of Small Island States, said that common accounting rules are needed to measure progress of global goals.

South Africa said that the crucial element of mitigation is comparability (of efforts among developed countries) and common accounting rules for developed countries which is part of the Durban decision. It also proposed another workshop on common accounting rules, and a program on comparability of efforts.

(The United States is a Party to the UNFCCC but not to the Kyoto Protocol. Hence the 2007 Bali Action Plan provides for comparability of efforts between non-Protocol Parties and Parties to the Protocol. The AWG-LCA was established under the Bali Action Plan.)

The United States clarified that it will use an inventory (based on guidelines in the 4th Assessment Report or AR4 of the IPCC) to report progress and it will not use international markets for its mitigation. New Zealand proposed the use of a template to further clarify commonalities and differences. It also raised questions on whether rule-based mechanisms should be fully harmonized; if harmonization is needed, then how to give more time for that harmonization process.

In relation to Panel 2, the moderator of the session stated that according to IPCC’s AR4, the ambition gap (in relation to mitigation) is very clear. IPCC’s AR4 indicated a 25-40% reduction for developed countries by 2020 (based on 1990 levels). However, the lower end of the developed country pledges only add up to 12% excluding LULUCF, and even the high end pledges only add up to 18% reductions.

Norway clarified that its 2020 target is 30% unconditional, and 40% reduction in relation to a global agreement. Its condition to move to a higher end of the target includes three aspects: (i) participation by all major emitters have to be captured; (ii) commitment must be clear and credible, though not necessarily legally binding; and (iii) need for a collective level of ambition (in terms of emissions reductions).

Brazil pointed out that some Annex 1 countries (developed countries and countries with economies in transition under the UNFCCC) do not have unconditional targets and some conditions posed by the developed countries are not compatible with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). It also asked if the Durban Platform meets the requirement for an international agreement and has to be clarified by those who posed this condition.

The Marshall Islands, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), stated that they want to see high ambition as much as possible under both the Kyoto Protocol and AWG-LCA. It is the developed countries’ obligation to lead, yet they fall short of the ambition needed with only half the reductions, even without LULUCF and carry-over of Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) (which is a tradable 'Kyoto unit' or 'carbon credit' representing an allowance to emit greenhouse gases comprising one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents).

The upper end of pledges is technically and economically feasible, thus representing unfulfilled potentials, said the Marshall Islands. Yet developed countries insist on political conditions relating to actions of other Parties or a new global agreement, which AOSIS said must be removed. It wanted all Annex 1 countries to move to the top range of their pledges and beyond. Ambition is a political opportunity, not a threat, it added. Some Parties say that binding is not necessarily producing ambition, yet it questioned if the current unbinding approach under the AWG-LCA produced ambition. The answer is a clear “NO” according to AOSIS, which called for legally binding targets in the second commitment period of the KP (Kyoto Protocol) and comparable efforts under the Bali Action Plan for developed countries who are not Parties to the KP.

Bolivia pointed out that 64% of Annex 1 country emissions fall out of the KP which is thus out of the current common rules and compliance system. Most of this 64% is with big countries like the United States, and this creates a big uncertainty in the climate regime and a shift towards a pledge and review system. Some Parties say that the KP does not work, yet for the EU, Japan and Norway, emissions between 1990 and 2009 decreased by 17.4%, 5% and 37% respectively – a clear sign the system is working. Referring to the UNEP report, Bolivia stated that in order to stay below 2 degree C warming, emissions by the year 2020 should be no more than 44 Gt. Yet with the Annex 1 current pledges, they will occupy 37% of this 44 Gt budget with only 17% of global population.

The Russian Federation said that its 15-20% target for emissions below 1990 baseline by 2020 is under official conditions: that there be a comprehensive global agreement and the fact that forests have to be taken into account. It will concentrate efforts domestically, for example, incentivize energy efficiency and renewables. Regarding AAUs, Russia did not sell any AAU during the first commitment period (of emissions reduction under the KP) and does not plan to sell during the second commitment period in the unlikely event that it will stay with the KP.

In an obvious response to Brazil, Norway acknowledged that the Durban Platform (DP) was an important step forward but felt that a lot of Parties did not want to start fast on the Ad hoc Working Group of the DP (the ADP).

The EU admitted that 30% (emission reduction) is feasible technically, and not moving to 30% is a political judgment. It clarified that 20% reductions is not business-as-usual (BAU) for the EU as claimed by some people, because the baseline calculation already includes existing policies and measures for mitigation. According to a 2009 estimation, without these mitigation efforts, BAU would be +3% by 2020, it said. There are a spectrum of views regarding the EU's internal debate whether to move higher, for example, one argument is that in order to achieve 80% reduction by 2050, a cost-effective trajectory would recommend 25% reduction by 2020, it added. But politically, the EU wanted comparable reductions from developed countries and more efforts from developing countries as well. The IPCC AR4 suggested that there be a 15-25% deviation from BAU for developing countries and yet, current pledges by developing countries only add up to 7-9% below BAU, added the EU. (This point was later rebutted by China which referred to the fact that a -20% is not BAU for EU, the baseline calculation for developing countries has already included their existing mitigation efforts; thus the deviation from BAU is much more than 7-9%. This point was accepted by EU. )

Saudi Arabia pointed out that Annex 1 emissions in 2000 should return to 1990 levels according to the Convention, and to reduce by 5% by 2012 according to the KP. This gap has to be filled before 2012.

Venezuela said the big question is what to do with non-KP parties from now to 2020; what kind of rules and safeguards should be applied to them, it asked. Brazil echoed Venezuela's concern, citing some non-KP parties actually increasing their emissions by 5% between 1990 and now (2012). It acknowledged the need to advance the ADP, but this depended on progress in the KP and AWG-LCA.

The Philippines rebutted Russia's earlier notion that one has to compromise between ambition and participation, stating that both is needed. It also pointed out that there are big economic disincentives for low-carbon development. It gave the example that the world spent $ 400 billion in 2010 and $ 630 billion in 2012 for fossil fuel subsidies.

India questioned Norway's statement that some Parties were signaling a shifting of position in relation to the DP and expressed concerns over the danger of the “conditions” call by developed countries becoming permanent. It questioned the relationship of the “conditions” to science, and whether Parties are moving from a science-based system to a politically-based system. Norway responded that it is important to report back to government that this process is moving forward, and it needs to see major emitters – both developed and developing countries raise ambition.

Mali noted the fragmentation of the already divided regime: now there are KP Parties who will stay with the second commitment period of the KP and KP Parties who will be out of the second commitment period. The issue of comparability of efforts among developed countries was more important than ever, it said. The ADP work needs to be contextualized and AWG-LCA should be extended for one year to fulfill its mandate. Mali identified three key issues for Doha: to establish common accounting rules for developed countries; to convert targets into quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELROS); and have a panel on accountability and compliance.

China said that the BAP requests to ensure the comparability of efforts among all developed country Parties. It is a COP decision that Parties must implement. To ensure the comparability requires the common ground of mitigation efforts, which includes, at least, the legal nature, the magnitude of the targets, the policies and measures, the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) system and the compliance system. It said that developed country Parties should achieve their quantified targets mainly by domestic mitigation actions, and only when Parties meet certain conditions, they could use MBMs (market based mechanisms) as a way to meet their targets. It warned that bilateral and regional MBMs are likely to result in double accounting, incomparable carbon credits, and the transfer of mitigation obligation to developing countries. It emphasized that it is totally wrong to think as long as one has money, one can buy carbon credits instead of taking mitigation actions at home.

The Marshall Islands, on behalf of AOSIS, pointed out that Australia and New Zealand, while stressing the need for confidence building, have not announced their KP targets themselves, and are picking and choosing accounting rules. The EU also called on Australia and New Zealand to join KP second commitment period.+