National communication and biennial reports

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Date produced: 05/09/2011

1. Assuming that biennial report guidelines are adopted in Durban, what is the most expeditious way to update the National Communication Guidelines for: (i) Annex I countries; and (ii) non-Annex I countries – assuming the biennial report is considered a subset of the National Communication? Can this realistically be done by COP 18?

2. How do other current processes underway in the UNFCCC affect this revision of National Communication guidelines (e.g. Consultative Group on National Communications for Non-Annex I countries, revision of Annex I inventory guidelines under SBSTA)?

3. Is there a precedent for “importing” guidance for Annex I countries to Non-Annex I countries? If so, could this be possible for developing Non-Annex I review procedures for the biennial reports based on existing methods for reviewing Annex I inventories and Annex I National Communications? What wording can be used to suggest this?

Summary:

1. It is likely that consensus from all Parties would be needed to amend the Guidelines to reflect a decision to mandate biennial reporting as part of National Communications. Provided that a draft text is put before the Parties at least six months before COP18, we do not believe that in principle there is any reason why it could not be done.

2. Several groups, including the SBI, the SBSTA, and the AWG-LCA, are considering amendments to future Guidelines. We expect that their recommendations will be considered by Parties at COP17.

3. We have not been able to identify any cases where guidance for Annex I countries has been adopted for non-Annex I countries. However, we see no reason in principle why this could not be done, particularly where the guidance for Annex I Parties has proven to be workable and effective.

1. You have asked what is the most expeditious way to update the National Communications Guidelines for:

• Annex I countries; and
• Non-Annex I countries,

assuming that biennial reporting is considered to be a subset of the National Communication. You also ask whether this can realistically be achieved by COP18, which will be held in late-2012.

As you know, the guidelines for national communications are different for Annex I and non-Annex I countries. Both sets of guidelines have been revised in the past. The Annex I guidelines have been revised twice, at COP2 (Geneva, 1996) and again at COP5 (Bonn, 1999). The non-Annex I guidelines were revised at COP8 (New Delhi, 2002), after a process initiated at COP5 (Bonn, 1999) resulted in the establishment of CGE (see below), which made recommendations for their improvement.

In relation to the process for amending these guidelines, there is a customary understanding among Parties of “consensus decision-making”. That is, if one country does not agree with a proposal, no decisions are adopted and negotiations will continue. This is consistent with Article 15 of the Framework Convention on Climate Change itself, which requires Parties to make every effort to reach agreement to amendments by consensus, and that only if “all efforts at consensus have been exhausted” will resort be made to a three-fourths majority vote of the Parties present and voting. However, there are occasions when consensus is recognised as not being possible. For example, the Cancun decisions were adopted despite strong opposition from one party, on the basis that one country cannot “veto” a deal that is supported by all other countries.

This emphasis on consensus decision-making would apply to an amendment of the National Communications Guidelines. It is therefore likely that consensus from all Parties would be needed to amend the Guidelines to reflect a decision to mandate biennial reporting as part of National Communications.

As with an amendment to the Convention itself, we would also expect that the text of any proposal would need to be communicated to the Parties by the secretariat at least six months before the meeting at which it is proposed to be adopted.

You asked what is the most expeditious way to update the Guidelines. As set out below, work is underway by different groups in the UNFCCC to update both sets of Guidelines. The recommendations made by these groups will have to be considered and agreed to by the COP before they are adopted. It will be important to ensure that the biennial reporting requirement is considered in parallel with, or part of, these recommendations, to ensure it is incorporated into any amendments that the COP agrees to and adopts.

We are not in a position to advise on whether guidelines for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties could be put in place by COP18. However, provided text can be put to the Parties six months before COP18, there is no reason in principle why this could not occur.

2. You have asked how other processes underway in the UNFCCC affect the revision of the National Communication Guidelines. In particular you asked about the Consultative Group on National Communications and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

At COP15 Parties decided to re-establish the Consultative Group of Experts on National Communications from Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention (CGE), for a period of three years – from 2010 to 2012.

The CGE’s role includes providing recommendations on elements to be considered in a future revision of the non-Annex I Guidelines, “taking into account the difficulties encountered by non-Annex I Parties in the preparation of their most recent national communications”. Its recommendations are made to the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).

In March 2011 the CGE held a workshop to enable Parties to exchange views on possible elements to be considered in the future revision of the Guidelines. There is nothing specific in its working paper that asks Parties about biennial reports (CGE/2010/3/5) and it does not appear that its mandate authorises it to this issue.

The CGE’s next meeting will be held at Santiago, Chile over 12-13 September 2011. The CGE’s work-plan states that it will provide recommendations to the SBI in the second quarter of 2011, however, to date nothing has been submitted. We expect an update of the CGE’s work after its next meeting.

In 2010 the SBSTA launched a work programme for the revision of the Annex I Guidelines. This is primarily concerned with the SBSTA’s proposal for Annex I Parties to use the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for national gas inventories, however it also concerns methodological issues relevant use of the 2006 Guidelines. The Secretariat expects the SBSTA to conclude and agree on revised guidelines at its thirty-fifth session, which will be held in Durban.

The SBSTA has begun considering an annotated draft of the revised guidelines (FCCC/SBSTA/2011/INF.4). This will continue at Durban.

It is expected that its draft decision will be put to the COP for adoption at COP17.

We are also aware that the Negotiating Text of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Active (AWG-LCA) includes options for biennial reports. The outcome of the AWG-LCA process will be considered at COP 17.

We expect that the recommendations of each of the CGE (through the SBI), SBSTA, and AWG-LCA will be considered by Parties at COP17.

3. We have not been able to identify any cases where guidance for Annex I countries has been adopted for non-Annex I countries. However, we see no reason in principle why this could not be done, particularly where the guidance for Annex I Parties has proven to be workable and effective.