Biennial update reports and emission data

Legal assistance paper

All reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time the advice was produced. However, the materials have been prepared for informational purposes only and may have been superseded by more recent developments. They do not constitute formal legal advice or create a lawyer- client relationship. To the extent permitted any liability is excluded. Those consulting the database may wish to contact LRI for clarifications and an updated analysis.

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Date produced: 15/06/2011

1. Is there any prohibition (under the general reporting and inventory rules under the Convention) on the biennial update reports containing third party emissions data? Would the consent of the third party (e.g. the International Energy Agency (IEA)) have to be obtained first? Is some of the source data used by the IEA submitted by oil companies – i.e. non-state actors?

2. Assuming there is no prohibition, how does the IEA calculate emissions (to the extent this information is publicly available) and the key differences between their methodologies and those of the UNFCCC (there is no need for an in-detail analysis of the methodological differences between the two)? Is there much difference between estimates?

Decision 1/CP. 16, paragraph 60(c) states: “developing countries, consistent with their capabilities and the level of support provided for reporting, should also submit biennial update reports containing updates of national greenhouse gas inventories, including a national inventory report and information on mitigation actions, needs and support received.” We note that this clause does not impose strict reporting requirements on developing countries, rather, it encourages developing countries to submit biennial update reports where there is the capacity and support to do so. In addition, paragraph 60 provides for “…further flexibility to be given to the least developed countries and small island developing states”.

In Decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 66, Parties agreed on, inter alia, “a work programme…for biennial reports as part of national communications”. Further implementation of paragraph 60(c) and paragraph 66 is on the Agenda for SBI 34 at paragraph 4(e), following invitation by the AWG-LCA (FCCC/SBI/2011/L.1).  Under the Convention Reporting Rules set out below, developing country Parties that do not have a national inventory available already or are unable to update their inventory are not restricted from using third party emissions data in their submissions to the UNFCCC Secretariat.

Non Annex 1 Reporting Rules under the Convention
The basic reporting obligations for each Party, including non-Annex I Parties, are set out in Article 12, paragraph 1 of the Convention. Each Party is required to communicate the following information to the UNFCCC Secretariat:
a) a national inventory of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of all GHGs not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, to the extent its capacities permit, using comparable methodologies to be promoted and agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties;
b) a general description of steps taken or envisaged by the Party to implement the Convention; and
c) any other information that the Party considers relevant to the achievement of the objective of the Convention and suitable for inclusion in its communication, including, if feasible, material relevant for calculations of global emission trends.

Under Article 12, paragraph 5 of the Convention, Non-Annex I Parties are required to submit this information within three years of the entry into force of the Convention for that Party or upon the availability of financial resources provided by Annex I Countries in accordance with Article 4, paragraph 3. Article 12 also states that “Parties that are least developed countries may make their initial communication at their discretion.”
Under Decision 8/CP.11, non-Annex I Parties were encouraged to make all efforts to submit their second and, where appropriate, third national communication, within four years of the initial disbursement of financial resources for the actual preparation of the national communication.

Revised Guidelines for the Preparation of Initial National Communications From Non-Annex I Parties (“Revised Guidelines”) were adopted by the Parties under Decision 17/CP.8 to assist non-Annex I Parties to prepare these reports. In the Revised Guidelines, which were annexed to Decision 17 CP.8, Non-Annex I Parties were encouraged to use:
• the Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (IPCC Guidelines) for estimating and reporting their national GHG inventories (paragraph 8 of the Revised Guidelines); and
• Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories developed in 2000 to assist national experts to deal with data uncertainties to ensure inventories are not over or underestimated and data quality is assured (paragraph 11 of the Revised Guidelines).

The IPCC Guidelines outline methods (tiers) for direct estimation of emissions as well as generic emissions factors (an emission factor is the conversion multiplier to derive emissions per unit of fuel or of activity data). Tier 1 represents the minimum, or default, methodology. If sufficient data is available, a Party may apply Tiers 2 or 3 which involve more elaborate methods based on either category-specific or technology sources. Parties can also use national methodologies where they consider these to be better able to reflect their national situation, provided that these methodologies are consistent, transparent and well documented.

There is no restriction in the Convention or the Revised Guidelines on use of third party emissions data. Developing country Parties, however, are encouraged to complete the workbook activities outlined in the IPCC Guidelines and use locally available data wherever possible. The objective of the IPCC Guidelines is to encourage developing country parties start developing inventories and become active participants in the inventories program.
Would the consent of the third party (e.g. the International Energy Agency (IEA)) have to be obtained first?
If third party emissions data, such as data from the International Energy Agency, are used in national communications or biennial reports submitted by developing country parties to the Secretariat, it is likely that consent of the third party will be required, in accordance with each organisation’s intellectual property policy.

For example, all IEA information is subject to copyright. If a developing country Party wishes to reproduce any IEA material or information, it must obtain the necessary permission from the copyright owner (this is likely to be the IEA but may in some cases involve other third parties). Restrictions also apply to copying, altering, translation and amendment of IEA information without written permission. Further information on the terms and conditions imposed on the use of information presented by the IEA can be found at
A summary of how the IEA calculates emissions (to the extent this information is publicly available) and the key differences between their methodologies and those of the UNFCCC

The IEA has undertaken a number of emissions studies in relation to sector, technology and country specific categories. We are unable to assess the methodologies used in each study. We note, however, that emissions data in the recent IEA CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion Report (2010) was calculated using IEA energy databases and the default methods and emission factors from the IPCC Guidelines. This suggests that the IEA utilises IPCC methodologies in accordance with reporting frameworks under the UNFCCC.

A detailed examination of the methodology used to produce the set of emissions data that the Developing Country Party intends to use would need to be undertaken to ensure it was calculated according to UNFCCC and IPCC guidelines.
Is there much difference between estimates?

We are unable to answer this question as it is a technical one, however, we note that “default” assumptions and data used in the estimation of greenhouse gas emissions are often of low quality and may affect emissions estimates.