A top priority for the Fiji Presidency at COP23 is preparing the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement. These guidelines help put the Paris Agreement into practice and establish how each government will implement its requirements. That’s why the implementation guidelines are sometimes referred to as the Paris rulebook.
While the guidelines will be finalized next year, progress negotiating their terms is essential to this climate summit’s success.
The role of the implementation guidelines is complex. the guidelines must enable Parties to communicate, report, review and strengthen climate action to the fullest of their capabilities, and do so in a way that is transparent and accountable to the international community. Clear guidelines will enable a more predictable transformation to a low-carbon and climate-resilient world, while enhancing international cooperation and support for countries and communities in need.
What Are the Main Components in the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines?
At COP22 in Morocco, negotiators confirmed 2018 as the deadline to finalize the guidelines for several processes and requirements, including:
- Reporting and review of countries’ individual actions and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to adapt to climate change, and of support received or provided. These two processes of the transparency framework will help track progress every two years with respect to the implementation and achievement of countries’ climate plans and associated targets, and contribute to understanding any gaps and relevant needs that countries may have.
- Accounting rules that provide a basis for understanding the total global impact of countries’ targets/goals, and to compare them. This facilitates the use of international market mechanisms, supported by tracking systems and an understanding of the role that land use changes and forestry play in countries’ efforts.
- Communication of countries’ climate plans (nationally determined contributions, or NDCs), to share updates on their efforts and possibly signal strengthened actions every five years.
- The mechanism countries will use to regularly take stock of progress (called the global stocktake) over five years, and identify ways countries can go further and faster.
- Establishing a committee to facilitate implementation and promotion of compliance.
What Are the Main Sticking Points?
Parties will need to find common ground between a range of interests and perspectives on key issues. Some technical provisions are particularly sensitive and will require a careful balancing act to reach agreement. These include:
- Providing flexibility for Parties that need it without reverting to a bifurcated approach (that is, different sets of guidelines for developed and developing countries). Striking this balance is especially necessary for the communication, reporting and review of countries’ actions and support.
- Clarifying the functions of the various processes established in Paris and identifying the most appropriate platforms to advance specific issues (for example, when the limits to adaptation in impacted countries are breached and communities face permanent loss and damage). It will be important to find a compromise on the scope of these process (for example, the global stocktake), without renegotiating the Paris Agreement.
- Designing the transparency and accountability regime under the Paris Agreement in a coherent, effective and mutually reinforcing manner. This was explored in WRI’s research paper Mapping the Linkages between the Transparency Framework and other Provisions of the Paris Agreement.
Other issues also pose important challenges, such as designing rules that ensure all countries measure their emissions, financial support and other activities consistently. And some issues are less mature than others, such as measuring adaptation progress or tracking climate finance. Similarly, negotiators are still figuring out how they can best cooperate through new market or non-market mechanisms that would contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting sustainable development. Finally, the lack of capacity for many developing countries to collect, manage and use data exacerbates these difficulties also presents a challenge.
What to Expect at COP23
COP23 is about coming together to tackle this complex set of issues, at both the technical and political levels, and to pave the way for finalizing and adopting the Paris Agreement implementation guidelines at the 2018 climate negotiations in Poland. To help make that happen, we will need innovative, creative thinking about how to sequence and cluster negotiations on the many inter-related elements of the Agreement and the implementation guidelines.
To facilitate the negotiations next year, negotiators must leave COP23 with a document that conveys key decision points on the guidelines, along with options for how to resolve the most sensitive remaining issues. And this document should be accompanied with a plan for how these issues will be taken forward over the course of 2018 (such as workshops, additional negotiation sessions and requests for countries’ views on outstanding issues).
To undertake this process this effectively, negotiators should recall that they are not starting from scratch. They will be building on 20 years of experience on these issues as they seek to craft effective rules for the Paris Agreement that build trust, incentivize action and ultimately guide the transformation to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.