The agreement reached in Durban marked an important milestone by agreeing on a comprehensive set of guidelines for measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of countries’ emissions reduction efforts.
Doha, on the other hand, resulted in a mixed outcome: While negotiators completed some important pieces of work, they failed to resolve a number of outstanding issues—especially when it comes to ensuring a cost-effective, credible verification framework. Some of these issues include:
Verification: COP 18 was scheduled to adopt a cost-effective verification regime for developing countries, only parts of which were agreed to in Durban.
However, countries left Doha with divergent views on how this process–known as international consultation and analysis (ICA)–should be conducted and on the effective use of existing institutions like the Consultative Group of Experts (CGE), a technical assistance body created to help developing countries meet their reporting requirements.
As a consequence, Parties were forced to extend the existing CGE mandate by a year instead of agreeing to a longer-term and more relevant mandate.
This means that the CGE will spend more time planning and adopting a work program rather than undertaking the necessary capacity-building activities for developing countries.
Such an outcome is concerning in that it may have long-term consequences for implementation of the reporting and verification regime, preventing the Secretariat from preparing training materials in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Reporting and Related Issues: Countries did manage to adopt common reporting format tables for Annex I nations. These tables can help track emissions, climate actions, and support in a more transparent and verifiable manner, as well as build trust through a robust accounting format.
The most controversial issues were:
1. How to deal with emission allowances issued from market mechanisms outside the UNFCCC framework (such as bilateral offset mechanisms and sectoral crediting mechanisms, which have been discussed but not yet agreed to under the Convention).
Countries finally agreed to allow for reporting of such emission units, but without “pre-judging” how this would be treated and accounted against targets. It’s unclear what this will mean in practice, nor how it may affect the accounting of emissions towards targets.
2. How detailed and standardized the reporting of climate finance and other means of support should be. Countries made progress in enhancing how to report public finance, technology transfer, and capacity building.
However, they agreed that they need further methodological work and considerations on how best to report private finance. This should be taken into account for the next revision of the reporting guidelines, as well as into the first biennial assessment of climate finance flows by the Standing Committee.
Although not perfect, this is a relatively good outcome that will enable Parties to start working on their enhanced national communications and biennial reports within the next two years.
On another positive note, the COP agreed to adopt voluntary domestic MRV guidelines within a year, which will help developing countries meet their reporting requirements both domestically and internationally.
This decision called for wider collaboration with internationally accredited organizations to produce such guidance.
Finally, one should not forget the importance of the work done to amend the MRV decisions related to the Kyoto Protocol, without which a second commitment period would not have been established.
This analysis is part of the World Resources Institute’s review of the COP18 UN climate talks in Doha, and can be examined in full on their website.