TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Jun20/03)
18 June 2020
Third World Network

UNFCCC Forum reveals challenges of developing countries in climate reporting

Delhi, 18 June (Indrajit Bose) – At the UNFCCC’s 9th meeting of the ‘Durban Forum on Capacity Building’ which was convened virtually on 5 June, several participants drew attention to the challenges faced by developing countries in their current reporting obligations under the Convention.

The meeting was held along the sidelines of the June Momentum for Climate Change, a series of virtual events held from June 1-10 under the guidance of the Chairs of the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Bodies viz. the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, (SBSTA), and Subsidiary Body for Implementation, (SBI).

The theme of the Durban Forum was ‘Capacity building to support implementation of (the) Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) under the Paris Agreement (PA)’.

The outcomes of the Forum are expected to feed in and inform the work of the 4th meeting of Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB), scheduled to meet online from 22-25th June 2020. The “PCCB will take stock of these outcomes to assist them in identifying concrete action points and recommendations to the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties (COP),” said Marianne Karlsen (Norway), the SBI Chair, at the Forum.

Several other speakers at the Forum stressed on stepping up capacity building support for developing countries, since Parties are expected to transition from the existing transparency procedures under the Convention, (known as measurement, reporting, verification [MRV] arrangements) to the ETF in about four years.

Under the existing transparency regime, developing countries have to submit a national communication (NATCOM) once every four years and a biennial update report (BUR) every two years. So far, 57 developing countries have submitted their first BURs, 31 countries have submitted their second BURs and only 10 countries have submitted their third BURs.

The Forum heard some speakers say that developing countries already face several challenges in fulfilling the existing reporting obligations under the Convention, and in issue now is how prepared they are to transition to the ETF. Break-out groups were also organized following interventions by a panel of speakers, which provided useful feedback, including on the challenges faced by developing countries. (See below for further details).

(Under Article 13 of the PA, the ETF for action and support was established using common modalities, procedures and guidelines [MPGs] with the recognition that since Parties have varying degrees of capacities, flexibilities are accorded to developing countries in need).

According to UNFCCC Secretariat representatives who spoke at the Forum, the final BURs would be those that countries have to submit no later than December 2024. “Once a country submits its final BUR, it can switch to a biennial transparency report (BTR). That switch needs to happen in a way where a country is in a position to submit its BTR by December 31 2024,” explained the Secretariat representatives, adding that the obligation to submit the NATCOM under the Convention remains unchanged.

Muhammed Arif Goheer, Chair of the Consultative Group of Experts, said that reporting requirements for developing countries have enhanced under the ETF and this means additional capacity building needs have to be addressed. He stressed that technical support to developing countries needs to be adequate to deliver on the PA and there is a “need to ensure technical support provided is aligned with the needs of developing countries”.

(The CGE assists developing countries fulfil their reporting requirements under the Convention and is mandated to support the implementation of the ETF under the PA. However, at COP 25 in Madrid in 2019, several developing countries expressed concerns over the lack of will on the part of developed countries to ensure support is provided to developing countries for reporting and building their capacities).

Goheer added that since the ETF builds on arrangements under the Convention, several experiences and lessons have to be learned from the current MRV arrangements to build the capacity of developing countries. He referred to a technical paper prepared by the CGE in 2019 titled ‘Problems, constraints and lessons learned as well as capacity-building needs for the preparation of NATCOM and BUR’.

(According to the technical paper, one of the problems and constraints of developing countries in relation to national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories is that “process and arrangements for data collection across agencies are either not in place or not formalized”. The paper also highlights that “data management systems for national GHG inventories are inadequate, making the archiving and use of data difficult”. Then, there are problems such as lack of technical capacity to understand and apply the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines for the GHG inventories.

In relation to reporting on mitigation actions, the key problems and constraints include lack of or insufficient institutional capacity to retain skills and knowledge gained from training, and lack of or inadequate methods for quantification of direct and indirect effects of mitigation actions. “Some Parties face technical constraints in using the available models, methods and tools and require practical and easy-to-apply guidelines or methods, particularly relating to setting baselines and target values, developing progress indicators [i.e. in relation to sources of data for monitoring progress and procedures to enable the future tracking of the indicators], scenario development, uncertainty management and abatement cost analysis,” the technical paper reads.

On reporting climate change impacts and adaptation, the CGE paper states that developing countries often struggled with a lack of standardized methodologies and tools for developing baseline and climate change scenarios; identifying socioeconomic indicators for assessing current and future vulnerability, adaptive capacity and impacts at different levels; insufficient funds for or national experts capable of applying climate science and carrying out technical studies to address all prioritized socioeconomic sectors; and assessing the potential costs and benefits of planned adaptation measures.

On reporting on support needed and received, the technical paper says that tracking and measuring the financial and technical support received for climate action is not often easy for developing countries, especially since such support is channeled through various agencies, including private sector and non-governmental organisations. Developing countries also had difficulty in understanding clearly what constitutes climate finance [as there is no definition of this] and this was also a challenge for developing countries in reporting).

Alyssa NG, member of the CGE, referred to a survey done by the CGE in 2019 (which was an online survey to know more about emerging needs of developing countries resulting from the ETF, in which 86 developing countries participated).

On the level of knowledge of the MPGs, she said that the survey found that more than half of the represented Parties were somewhat familiar with the guidance, information and identifying needs and only 24 per cent had knowledge and understanding to start preparing for the ETF, while the others had limited knowledge. The survey found that less than half of the countries have begun planning for the transition to ETF, she added.

(The survey’s results also feature in the CGE technical paper. The survey found that the key capacity building needs identified for preparing and reporting information in the thematic areas of the BTR included national GHG inventory; tracking progress of implementation and achievement of nationally determined contributions (NDCs); climate change impacts and adaptation; and support needed and received, according to the technical paper. The technical paper also states the capacity building needs identified in specific areas that the survey found. These included methods or practical guidelines for tracking progress of implementation and achievement of NDCs; understanding the relationship between MRV and transparency of climate action and support and the tracking or monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal indicators, and formalizing a data collection and management process.)

Other speakers at the Forum included Clifford Mahlung, Coordinator for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on Capacity Building, Juliet Meredith, representative of the COP 26 Presidency; Sandra Motshwanedi, from the government of South Africa, Damiano Borgogno from United Nations Development Programme; and Fabian Klemme, representative of Partnership on Transparency in the PA (PAPTA-GIZ). They talked about various aspects of capacity building support for the ETF. (PAPTA was founded as partnership on mitigation MRV in 2010 by South Africa, South Korea and Germany).

Mahlung stressed that relying on “overseas” consultants did not quite result in capacity building. “We know the issues that come with those; you get good products in most cases, but capacity of the countries in many senses does not get the real attention that it deserves. There has been a strong reliance on using outside expertise. This has been changing over time though, but it is not happening at a pace we can say we are comfortable with. ETF gives an opportunity to address some of those issues to address the capacity of countries,” he said further.

Meredith said that capacity-building must be demand led and that several capacity building providers such as the Capacity Building Initiative on Transparency (CBIT), Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) needed to coordinate among themselves. “As Parties are starting to undergo process of preparing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) and long-term strategies, this alone should build the understanding of needs and that will facilitate coherence and coordination,” she said. She also referred to some UNFCCC initiatives such as the PCCB Network and capacity building hub as other spaces to encourage coherence and coordination.

Motshwanedi spoke about starting early and setting in place institutional systems, while Borgogno talked about south-south cooperation to enhance national capacities. Klemme referred to the need to focus on explaining national benefits of an MRV and transparency system to better achieve the necessary political buy in, address the basics such as data collection and long-term institutional arrangements first.

The meeting also discussed four specific areas in separate break-out groups. Following were the topics and outcomes of the breakout groups:

The first breakout group topic was, “Ready for the BTR? Implications of the relevant MPGs adopted in Katowice for developing countries in terms of building or strengthening capacity: needs and gaps”. The group reported back that some of the challenges identified in transitioning to the ETF included the need to streamline processes and efforts; the need to develop tools tailored for the circumstances of developing countries, considering existing tools are more suited to developed countries; and areas that require capacity building include GHG inventory data management system, institutional arrangements, building capacity at sub-national levels, understanding localized impacts for better projections/modelling.

The second breakout was on “Lessons learned, in relation to both action taken and support received, in developing countries as regards capacity-building for MRV that could be useful in implementing the ETF”. The group reported the lessons learned that included: reporting, which improves overtime with each submission; that learning by doing is critical for increasing capacity; non-punitive, facilitative nature of review processes are an encouragement for countries to learn moving forward; and that current MRV systems are a good starting point for the BTR.

The third breakout group was on “Assessing and improving the effectiveness of capacity-building actions”. The group reported that there were methodologies for assessing the existing capacity. However, such methodologies need to be flexible enough to be replicable in different country contexts, and that quantitative as well as qualitative methodologies are needed to understand the effectiveness of capacity building in the long term. Availability of data figured as a common challenge. However, some participants said that as countries transition to the ETF, more data from countries on needs and how to strengthen capacity would be available for study.

The final breakout group was on “Promoting and improving coherence and coordination of capacity-building action at the national and international level to enhance support for implementing the ETF”. The group reported back that several capacity building providers have value and should be in place for countries to promote participation and that having a national focal point for the different existing initiatives/platforms would be helpful to ensure countries have an overview of support channels/platforms. The group also reported that greater focus on institutional capacity building was needed and that the current focus on individual capacity building was not sufficient. It also acknowledged that huge challenges remained, with 100 countries struggling to meet even the existing requirements, and to ensure that BTRs are developed in a timely manner, coordination is needed on how finance is provided. Work of the PCCB also assumes importance to enhance coherence and coordination on capacity building, according to the report-back by the group.


(TWN Note: Also see latest TWN publication on ‘Understanding the Enhanced Transparency Framework and Its Modalities under the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement’).