Can you clarify the new reporting requirements under Article 13 PA and the guidelines currently being developed in terms of information to be provided both in relation to actions taken (Article 13.5) and support received (Article 13.6) and their frequency?
The Paris Agreement (PA) establishes a transparency framework (Art.13.1) that distinguishes between “action” and “support”. The purpose of the framework for transparency of action is to provide a clear understanding of climate change action, including clarity and tracking of progress towards implementing and achieving individual NDCs under Article 4 as well as countries’ adaptation actions under Article 7 (Art.13.5). The purpose of the framework for transparency of support is to provide clarity on finance and other support for climate action provided and received by parties (Art.13.6).
The transparency framework for action and support is also meant to inform the global stocktake. It will play a key role in providing scrutiny and accountability of Parties’ efforts to address climate change. According to Art.13.13 of the PA, the detailed rules or “modalities, procedures and guidelines” (MPGs) needed to operationalize the new system will be adopted by the CMA based on the work undertaken by the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Paris Agreement (APA) (COP decision 1/CP.21 para.91 that accompanied the adoption of the Paris Agreement).
2. Framework’s main features
The transparency framework’s main features are:
- One framework for all with “built-in flexibility” (Art.13.1): The new regime marks a departure from the existing UNFCCC system which sets out differentiated reporting obligations for developed and developing country parties. The PA envisages one framework applicable to all, but with flexibility for developing country parties that need it in the light of their capacities. The special circumstances of LDCs and SIDs are recognised in both the PA (Art.13.3) and Decision 1/CP.21, which provides that they may fulfil Article 13 requirements “at their discretion” (paragraph 90, Decision 1/CP.21).
- It builds on existing arrangements (Art.13.3 and Art.13.4): in many ways, the new regime will build on current MRV arrangements developed under the UNFCCC (Cancun Agreements) and the Kyoto Protocol. Like these, it will consist of two elements: reporting and review. In terms of reporting, parties will, for example, continue to report every two years on their efforts, produce GHG inventories while the flexibility for LDCs and SIDs will continue to apply. In terms of review, the existing technical expert reviews and multilateral party-to-party reviews will be transposed into the new framework.
- It seeks to enhance the transparency arrangements under the Convention (Art.13.3). The PA provides a clear ‘direction of travel’ in that the new regime is not only intended to build on but also to improve the existing one. Decision 1/CP.21 further guards against backsliding by providing that the MPGs should take into account the importance of facilitating improved reporting and transparency over time (paragraph 92(a)) and the need to ensure that parties maintain at least the frequency and quality of reporting in accordance with their obligations under the Convention (paragraph 92(e)).
- Facilitative, non-intrusive or punitive (Art.13.3).
3. Reporting requirements
In terms of reporting the PA states that:
- Each party shall regularly provide: (1) a national inventory report of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, prepared using good practice methodologies accepted by the IPCC and agreed upon by the CMA (Art.13.7(a)); and (2) information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving its NDC (Art.13.7(b)).
- Each party should provide information related to climate change impacts and adaptation, as appropriate (Art.13.8).
- Developed country parties shall, and other parties providing support, should provide information on financial, technology transfer and capacity-building support provided (Art.13.9).
- Developing country parties should provide information on support needed and received (Art.13.10).
To help developing country parties meet more onerous transparency-related obligations and build their capacity the PA envisages the provision of additional support (Art.13.14 and Art.13.15). A Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency, to strengthen institutional and technical capacity, has been established (Decision 1/CP21, paragraphs 84 and 85).
Thus, the PA clarifies, to some extent, what needs to be reported: GHG inventories, information on progress made in implementing and achieving NDCs, climate change impacts and adaptation, support provided and mobilized, and support needed and received. Some of this reporting is to be mandatory (“shall”), whilst other reporting will not be. Beyond this, it will be for the CMA, when adopting the MPGs based on the APA’s recommendations, to decide what the requirements in terms of content will be for each of these reporting components.
4. Frequency of reporting
In terms of frequency of reporting, the PA only states that national inventory reports and information to track progress in implementing and achieving NDCs shall be provided “regularly” (Art.13.7). Decision 1/CP.21, however, elaborates on this: all parties are to submit the information referred to in Art.13.7, Art.13.8, Art.13.9 and Art.13.10 at least every two years, except for LDCs and SIDS who may submit this information at their discretion (paragraph 90). As noted above, the Decision also provides that the MPGs should take into account the need to ensure that parties maintain at least the frequency and quality of their current reporting (paragraph 92(e)). Beyond this, we will have to wait and see if and to what extent the MPGs further specify these frequency provisions.
Based on the above, however, we can already say that parties will be expected to submit transparency reports at least every two years, except for LDCs and SIDS who will be able do so at their discretion. Other developing country parties are already required to report every two years through biennal update reports (BURs).
In relation to GHG inventories, under the current system, developed country parties report annually through separate national inventory reports, whilst developing countries do so through their national communication and BURs. We can expect the current frequency of reporting to continue under the new regime, with developing countries being encouraged to gradually move to reporting annually.
Under the current arrangements, all parties also report through national communications every four years. It is unclear whether they will continue to do so under the new regime. Parties may decide to continue with them so as to cover information that is currently reported, such as education, training and public awareness, research and systematic observation, yet doesn’t fall within the scope of the new regime.
5. Interpreting flexibility
For many developing country parties reporting requirements may raise capacity issues. The PA acknowledges this when it provides that the MPGs should reflect flexibility for “those developing country parties that need it in the light of their capacities” (Art.13.2) and that the “special circumstances” of LDCs and SIDS must be recognised (Art.13.3). Flexibility, therefore, won’t apply to all developing country parties per se, but only to those that need it in light of their capacities.
Decision 1/CP.21 provides some guidance as to the nature of this flexibility: paragraph 89 states that developing countries will be given flexibility in the “scope, frequency and level of detail of reporting”. It also highlights that the APA, when elaborating the MPGs, should balance the need for flexibility against other objectives such as maintaining the frequency and quality of reporting under current obligations and fostering enhanced reporting and transparency over time (paragraph 92).
Beyond this, it will be for the CMA to decide who might be eligible for what type of flexibility. For example, in relation to national GHG inventories, it may provide that although ultimately all parties should report on the seven Kyoto gases, developing country parties that need it in light of their capacities will have the flexibility, for a specified period of time, to report instead on some of those gases only, provided that they explain why they need that flexibility.
6. Key issues for COP24
In Bangkok, the subsidiary bodies tasked their presiding officers to prepare a Joint Reflections Note  addressing progress made to date and identifying ways forward, including textual proposals that would be helpful for advancing Parties’ deliberations. Addendum 6 of the Note, which relates to Article 13, PA and paragraphs 84-98 of Decision 1/CP.21, highlights a number of areas that are key to enabling completion of the MPGs:
- Identify the appropriate formula to reflect flexibility for developing country parties that need it in the light of their capacities.
This would not have to be one formula covering all elements and provisions of the transparency framework for which flexibility is envisaged. Parties could consider using different approaches for different aspects e.g. for national inventory reports, report on particular sectors or gases, as mentioned earlier, and use a tiered approach such as that already used in the IPCC guidelines. In terms of who might benefit, parties could opt for a self-selection approach giving a party discretion to determine if it falls within the category of parties needing flexibility, or a category-based approach (covering specific groups such as LDCs and SIDS) or a distinction based on a set of objective criteria.
- How should the MPGs built upon and eventually supersede the current MRV system?
Please refer to our separate advice on transitioning to the new system.
- What IPCC guidelines should Parties use when compiling their national inventory reports and should flexibility be provided to those developing country parties that need it in the light of their capacities (e.g. through a transition to the use of the most recent IPCC guidelines and capacity-building support to assist with the transition)?
Under the UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories for developed country parties (Decision 24/CP.19), those parties are required to use the 2006 IPCC Guidelines. By contrast developing countries can still use the 1996 IPCC Guidelines although a number of them are already using the more recent ones. It has been noted that flexibility is already built into the 2006 Guidelines as parties have discretion to apply different tiers. Parties could consider requiring all countries to report using the most recent Guidelines; identify, in relation to specific aspects of these, any additional flexibility that developing country parties might use for a limited period of time (provided they explain why they need the extra flexibility); and provide capacity-building support for those that need support.
- Ensure that the transparency MPGs related to the description of a Party’s nationally determined mitigation contribution (being developed under APA agenda item 5) are coherent with the information provided to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding of NDCs (being developed under APA agenda item 3).
When reporting on progress in implementing and achieving its NDC, a party will need to provide (1) information that describes its NDC and (2) information necessary to track progress in implementing and achieving it. This highlights the need to ensure that the information provided under Art.13.7(b) is coherent with the information provided by parties when communicating their NDC under Art. 4.8. It will simplify the comparability of NDCs and also means that, when reporting on its NDC, a party might be able to just refer to the information provided to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding without it creating an additional burden on that party.
- Identify the common set of information needed to track progress in implementing and achieving all types of NDCs.
This might include the information required to be provided when communicating an NDC (under paragraph 27 of Decision 1/CP.21), information on the indicators and methodologies used for tracking progress, accounting guidance (under Art.4.13 PA and para.31 Decision 1/CP.21), and – where parties use cooperative approaches under Art.6.2 PA – information on how they accounted for their internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs), etc.
- Given the close relationship between the guidance for an adaptation communication under APA item 4 and the MPGs for reporting on information on climate change impacts and adaptation under APA item 5, how can the MPGs be revised to reflect progress made in Bangkok under item 4 on the guidance for an adaptation communication?
Although the adaptation communication is intended to be forward looking whilst the reporting will be backward looking, consistency between the two sets of guidance would help reduce the reporting burden on countries and likely help enhance the visibility of climate change impacts and adaptation action. Paragraph 94(c) of Decision 1/CP.21 envisages that parties report information on adaptation action and planning including, if appropriate, their national adaptation plans.
- When and how should the modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 7, of the Paris Agreement, being developed under SBSTA agenda item 13, be incorporated into the MPGs?
As mentioned earlier, Art.13.9, PA requires developed country parties to report on financial and other support provided. Art.9.7 elaborates on this requirement. It imposes an obligation on those parties to provide transparent and consistent information on support for developing country Parties provided and mobilized (ie ‘ex post’) through public interventions biennially in accordance with the MPGs to be adopted by the CMA, at its first session, as stipulated in Article 13.13. Other Parties are encouraged to do so. In addition, the COP has mandated the SBSTA to develop rules for accounting of financial resources provided and mobilised through public interventions in accordance with Art.9.7, to recommend to COP24 (Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 57). There is, therefore, a clear and explicit link between Art.9.7 information and the transparency framework under Art.13; the question is when and how should these latter rules being developed under SBSTA be integrated into the MPGs being developed under the APA agenda item 5. In Bangkok, Parties proposed to hold a joint session of SBSTA and APA at COP24. One can expect these issues to be discussed at that joint session.
___________________________________________ Dagnet et al, Setting the Paris Agreement in Motion: Key Requirements for the Implementing Guidelines, WRI Working Paper, August 2018, p.36.  Sue Biniaz, Article 13 of the Paris Agreement: Reflecting “Flexibility” in the Enhanced Transparency Framework, IDDRI, No5/18, April 2018, p.2; Dagnet et al, Setting the Paris Agreement in Motion: Key Requirements for the Implementing Guidelines, WRI Working Paper, August 2018, p.33.  Joint Reflections Note by the presiding officers of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, APA-SBSTA-SBI.Informal 2, 15 October 2018, available at https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/APA_SBSTA_SBI.2018.Informal.pdf.  Joint Reflections Note, Addendum 6, APA-SBSTA-SBI.2018.Informal.2.Add.6, 19 October 2018, available at https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/APA-SBSTA-SBI.2018.Informal.2.Add_.6.pdf.  Available at https://legalresponse.org/legaladvice/transparency-framework-transition/  The latest (2006) IPCC guidelines for reporting on inventories “provide substantial discretion to parties, both with respect to capacity (e.g., by allowing a party to choose among methodological “tiers” for estimating emissions in any given sector) and with respect to national circumstances more broadly (e.g., by allowing a party to substitute its own approach when necessary, with an explanation).” Essential Elements of the Paris ‘Rulebook’, C2ES Report, November 2018, p.3.  Essential Elements of the Paris ‘Rulebook’, p.4