Policy Brief - Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center

Evaluating Mitigation Effort: Tools and Institutions for Assessing Nationally Determined Contributions

| November 2015

Executive Summary

The full discussion paper and executive summary are available for download here: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/25957/

INTRODUCTION

The governments of the world will meet in Paris in December 2015 for the Twenty-First Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They will likely conclude there a major new multilateral agreement to address climate change—which would include emission mitigation contributions through 2030 and would be the most significant such accord since the Kyoto Protocol.

The most important difference between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris agreement is that developing countries are submitting pledges under the Paris agreement to reduce emissions. They had no emissions-reduction (mitigation) obligations under Kyoto. In order to achieve broad participation in the global effort to mitigate emissions, the COP has allowed each government to choose for itself how—and how much—it will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. This stands in contrast to the multilateral negotiation of targets—and concerns about diplomatic pressure on some countries to accept targets that they cannot achieve and for which they cannot secure domestic political support—that characterized the 1997 Kyoto negotiations. As of November 25, 2015, 176 governments had submitted mitigation pledges, which are formally known as "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDCs), for inclusion in the Paris agreement. This is out of a total of 196 UNFCCC member governments—a remarkable and unprecedented rate of participation.

Given the substantial discretion afforded to individual countries in determining their mitigation efforts, it is not surprising that the INDCs submitted to date vary widely in the form and level of ambition that mitigation targets take. The author discusses why it is important to compare such heterogeneous mitigation targets (and actions), reviews potential tools for doing so, analyzes the importance of transparency in the review and comparison of pledges (and lessons we might learn from transparency regimes in other intergovernmental organizations), proposes "Living Mitigation Plans" as an approach to facilitating review and comparison of pledges, and finally examines approaches to assessing mitigation value as an aid to linking heterogeneous mitigation systems.

Continue reading here: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/evaluating-mitigation-effort-aldy_web_exec_summ2.pdf

For more information on this publication: Please contact Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
For Academic Citation: Aldy, Joseph E.. “Evaluating Mitigation Effort: Tools and Institutions for Assessing Nationally Determined Contributions.” Policy Brief, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center, November 2015.