COP24: Implications for capacity building for transparency in developing countries

At the Conference of Parties in Katowice (COP24) in December 2019, negotiators successfully delivered a set of guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement. The ‘Katowice Climate Package’, which represents the Rulebook to the Paris Agreement, includes decisions on nearly all of the issues mandated as part of the Work Programme under the Paris Agreement, including information to be communicated in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), how to communicate about efforts to adapt to climate impacts in the adaptation communications, how the enhanced transparency framework (ETF) will be implemented or how to conduct the global stocktake of overall progress towards the aims of the Paris Agreement in 2023. These implementation guidelines will establish the foundation for an effective international system to promote and track progress, while empowering countries to build national systems to implement the Agreement, build greater trust and strengthen international cooperation.

One major element of the Rulebook is the adoption of common modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs) for the ETF for action and support, building on experience from the transparency arrangements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These MPGs apply to all parties and provide flexibility for developing countries.

According to Article 13 of the Paris Agreement and described in detail under the MPGs, all parties must submit biennial transparency reports (BTRs) no later than December 2024 covering the following information:

  • national inventory report on anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs);
  • information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving NDCs;
  • information related to climate change impacts and adaptation;
  • information on financial, technology development and transfer and capacity-building support provided and mobilised;
  • information on financial, technology development and transfer and capacity-building support needed and received.

BTRs must also undergo a two-step review process consisting of a technical expert review and a facilitative, multilateral consideration of progress. The review process will focus on the mandatory elements of the BTRs. In the case of developing countries, this only refers to information related to national GHG inventories and to tracking progress in implementing and achieving a country’s NDC.

BTRs and their technical review process and multilateral consideration of progress will supersede the current biennial update report (BUR) requirements (Annex III of Decision 2/CP.17) from December 2024. Until then, developing countries must submit BURs and by doing so will gain the experience needed to deal with the transparency requirements under the Paris Agreement.

In order to be able to comply with these transparency requirements, developing countries will receive financial and technical support on preparing and submitting BTRs and on building the institutional and technical transparency-related capacity. This will be delivered, among others, through the Global Environment Facility financial mechanism and through the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT), but also through a wide number of initiatives supported bi- or multilaterally.

Capacity-building needs of developing countries

Experience with the current reporting under the UNFCCC revealed that many developing countries face challenges in complying with the requirements. Common challenges include lack of institutional and technical capacity, lack of political buy-in, difficulties in retaining the expertise, understaffing, inadequate specific legislative and/or policy support for climate change initiatives, lack of national statistics and data collection agreements, lack of national funds to maintain sustainable institutional systems and relying on national or international consultants to prepare BURs.

As the new reporting requirements under the ETF supersede the current ones and entail some elements that are new to many countries, additional institutional and capacity needs are to be anticipated in developing countries. Some of the most challenging are expected to be implementing and maintaining sustainable national arrangements, increasing the accuracy and completeness of GHG inventories, understanding methodologies and indicators needed to track progress in implementing and achieving the NDC, developing GHG emissions projections, understanding adaptation priorities, tracking progress on implementing adaptation actions and participating in the technical expert review.

Recommendations for capacity building and support

It is expected that countries that are currently complying with existing reporting requirements and have already submitted one or more BURs and participated in the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) process will be better prepared to deal with the transparency requirements under the Paris Agreement. Hence, countries who have not yet submitted a BUR should aim to do so to benefit from the process and those that have submitted one or more, mainly with the support of external consultants, should aim to develop in-house expertise and arrangements in order to make the process more sustainable. Bearing in mind the different starting points, support initiatives and programmes are encouraged to target their backing at the actual needs of countries rather than pursue the same policy in all the countries they support. For example, basic training on GHG inventory would be highly useful in least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) that have not yet submitted a BUR. Countries with more experience could benefit from advanced training on GHG inventories and technical capacity building to develop GHG emissions projections and indicators to track NDC implementation progress. Also, it is recommended that initiatives target particular countries that have so far received less support and are more limited in their capacities, such as LDCs and SIDS, but also countries in Central Asia or Central America, and build basic institutional and technical capacities to be able to generate reports on a continuous basis.

Furthermore, support needs to be targeted at reducing data gaps in national statistics relevant to climate change reporting, which is a common problem in many developing countries, and at enhancing basic information, such as the energy balance, livestock numbers, vehicle stock or waste management practices. This will require working with other ministries and agencies aside from the national UNFCCC focal point (usually the Ministry of Environment). In most advanced developing countries, support needs to be provided in order to better understand the use of modelling tools that make it possible to track the progress of mitigation actions and that also aim to encompass enhancements in sectors that are traditionally neglected, such as industrial processes and product use (IPPU) and waste.