Putting the Trust Back in Transparency

By Rennier Gadabu

The Dalai Lama wasn’t talking about the United Nation’s climate change negotiations when he said, ”a lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” But he could have been.

For certain, here at the latest round of climate talks in Bonn, Germany, the last before the international community tries to reach a planet-saving climate treaty in Paris next month, “measuring, reporting and verification” or MRV has emerged as a make-or-break issue for Paris.

If countries are going to make deep emissions cuts than they want to be sure that their economic competitors are going to do the same.

Article 12 of the UN climate change convention says each party shall communicate information on their emissions and removals using comparable measures, steps in implementing the Convention, and any other information relevant to the implementation of the Convention.

But different interpretations of historic responsibility and capacity for implementing emissions cuts has led to a longstanding tension between developed and developing parties on the issue of transparency and others.

For example, the U.S, European Union and New Zealand are calling for a transparency system that requires all countries to utilize the same MRV system. While a number of developing countries, China and India for instance, argue that limited resources and capacities preclude them from following onerous MRV rules, especially at a time when their priority must be economic growth and poverty eradication.

Recognizing the gap in agreement, the AP Co-Chairs, Dan Reifsnyder, and Ahmed Djoglaf, proposed a compromise in a non-paper earlier this week. However, the disagreement persists.

Here as elsewhere the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS), which has an existential interest in ensuring emissions reductions are achieved as promised, has put forward a list of principles on transparency that might help satisfy all of the differing parties with a number of key principles:

1.     Building on the Convention arrangements
2.     The system should promote participation of all
3.     The system should ensure transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency of both action and support
4.     The system must not be burdensome for SIDS and the LDCs
5.     Must provide clearest possible understanding of aggregate emissions to measure against the global goal of 1.5. or 2 degree
6.     Support should be provided to ensure SIDS and LDCs are effectively participating
7.     There should be a robust accounting rules to prevent gaming and double counting and to protect environmental integrity
8.     Transparency of action and support should be advanced together and last but not the least
9.     There should be a transition period that is subject to capacity building support to ensure that SIDS and LDCs are effectively participating

Our approach would simultaneously allow for robust MRV while supporting developing countries as they transition to a more standardized system, and would move the negotiations forward at this critical juncture. Most of all, it would allow us to engage in the transparency process and give us assurances that we can trust countries will fulfill the actions needed for our survival.

Rennier Gadabu is Nauru’s climate change fellow. The AOSIS climate change fellowship  program is funded by the European Union to build capacity within small island nations. The fellows are based in their respective New York missions and attend all UNFCCC sessions following a specific issue in the negotiations.