Finalizing the “Rulebook” for the Paris Agreement was a major priority of this most recent Conference of Parties for climate change. The Paris Agreement was passed in 2015 at the COP21 but has not been enforced because there were no rules to implement it. Additionally, as the finalization of the Paris Agreement does not solve all problems, the conference also pushed for more action to occur in other areas of the climate change arena. The Paris Agreement is a good way to hold countries accountable in certain areas but there were still some that were left untouched or needed more work.
The goals of COP26 President, from the United Kingdom, going into the conference were to reach a conclusion on carbon markets, resolves issues of transparency so that the legitimacy of the conference would encourage all countries to keep their commitments, and to keep the 1.5 degrees initiative alive. Many critics of these conferences have stated that there is too much talk and very little action.
The Paris Rulebook was first adopted in the COP24; however, the parties were unable to agree on rules for implementing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. In this third session regarding the rulebook, the countries finally agreed to an edited version of Article 6. This is particularly important as Article 6 specifically determines the levels of “voluntariness” in implementing national determined contributions to the agreement. The edited version included guidance on tracking requirements, how mitigation efforts can differ between developing and developed countries, and how the results of these efforts would be measured in the future.
There were challenges of transparency in the implementation of the article. As countries were unaware of the requirements being honoured by other countries, they could distrust the Agreement process and, ultimately, not honour their own commitments. “The new framework will apply to all countries but provide ‘built-in flexibility’ for those developing countries that ‘need it in light of their capacities.’’ This is the language that needed to be explained. The system under the Paris Agreement allows for more developed countries to use Clean Development Mechanism credits when helping other countries lower their emissions. These credits account for the work one country has done for another. The concern with this process was that there could have been “double counting” of these credits, which could cause an inflation in the amount of emissions mitigated.
To create more transparency in this process, each country shares their nationally determined contributions and must justify them. They must detail why they believe they are fair contributions and, ultimately, are ambitious given the country’s circumstances. This is written in the rulebook and agreement as the contributions and requirements “applicable” to each country. This enhanced framework provides from reporting and review of information on parties’ emissions, mitigation efforts, and support that has been provided or received by the party. The goal being to work towards the same capacity of change as the developing countries strengthen over time. The first round of these reports will be due in 2024 and a review will be underway in 2025. This will be the first time the Paris Agreement will be evaluated. This is outlined by way of a package adopted by the COP26 that implements the Enhanced Transparency Framework. Including a collection of common reporting tables that will account for emissions, support, and progress towards each party’s national determined contributions.
In addition to providing transparency to goal setting a reporting under the Paris Agreement, this implementation of the Rulebook also provides a timeline for parties to adhere to. A timeline could not be agreed upon at previous conferences. This timeline is called a Common Time Frame, it guides the parties by informing them of how and when they need to select their NDCs, and which amount of progress they must have achieved by when. These Common Time Frames will make the process easier to track, aggregate and compare targets and implementations.
This was a final step to authorizing the complete Paris Agreement Rulebook. In accomplishing this goal at COP26, the parties have kickstarted their ability to being completely implementing the Paris Agreement. There are accountability measures in place, transparency provides more confidence, and all work completed will be recorded. An important thing to remember following this milestone is that there are still many other areas of climate change that need to be addressed. The president of COP26 stated that this finalization will secure the conferences hopes to meet the 1.5-degree goal and to give parties clarity that they need to continue towards their next benchmark.
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COP26: The Negotiations Explained. (2021). Retrieved from UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021: https://ukcop26.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/COP26-Negotiations-Explained.pdf
Huang, J. (2019, June). A Brief Guide to the Paris Agreement and 'Rulebook'. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.