MRV Arrangements Under the Paris Agreement

Under the Paris Agreement, developed (Annex 1) and developing (non-Annex 1) country Parties agree to undertake and communicate their efforts to hold the global average temperature increase to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Parties to the Agreement must submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are statements of intended reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are to be updated every five years and should reflect progressive ambition.

The Paris Agreement commits to establishing “an enhanced transparency framework (ETF) for action and support, with built-in flexibility which takes into account Parties’ different capacities.” The decision to establish the ETF represents a significant step in the further evolution of the MRV framework under the UNFCCC. The ETF will eventually supersede the existing modalities, procedures and guidelines for MRV. In terms of GHG mitigation, the purpose of the ETF is to provide a clear understanding of mitigation actions, to track progress towards NDCs, and to inform a global stocktake to be undertaken every five years to assess collective progress towards the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Modalities, procedures and guidelines for the ETF will be developed by the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement and presented for consideration at COP 24 in 2018.

In terms of reporting emissions and GHG mitigation for developing countries, the key provisions of the Paris Agreement are that:

  • all Parties shall regularly submit national inventory reports and information on implementation and achievement of NDCs;
  • all Parties shall account for their NDCs;
  • developing country Parties should regularly communicate progress made on implementing capacity-building plans, policies, actions or measures.
  • NDCs are communicated through a registry maintained by the UNFCCC Secretariat. The Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) develops modalities and procedures for the operation and use of the registry.

In terms of verification, information on GHG inventories and on implementation and achievement of NDCs will be subject to technical expert review. While a process for international consultation and analysis (ICA) of BURs submitted by developing countries only consider transparency, under the ETF, implementation and achievement of NDCs by all parties will be subject to “facilitative, multilateral consideration,” the modalities, procedures and guidelines for which have still to be developed under the Ad Hoc Working Group. For developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities, the review process shall include assistance in identifying capacity-building needs.

The ETF will build on and enhance existing transparency arrangements under the UNFCCC, including National Communications, Biennial Update Reports (BURs, see Reporting), and related verification processes. As with the current MRV framework, the ETF will contain some flexibility for developing country Parties “that need it in the light of their capacities.” Some provisions state what all Parties are required to do, but some provisions for developing countries indicate what they “should” or are “encouraged” to do, indicating flexibility in the stringency of requirements.

Table 1 summarizes the potential differences between the current MRV system for developing countries and the possible requirements of the ETF, bearing in mind that the Ad Hoc Working Group has yet to present its recommendations. The most significant departure from the current MRV framework will be the need to report progress on the implementation and achievement of NDCs.

Table 1. Summary of potential differences between the current MRV system for developing countries and possible requirements under the ETF (adapted from Briner and Moarif 2016).

Existing MRV systemPossible requirements under the ETF
GHG inventories
Biennially in BURs
IPCC 1996 Revised guidelines
No verification for developing countries
Developing countries to submit biennially (with flexibility for least developed countries and small island developing states)
Same GPG methodologies to be used by all Parties
National CommunicationsDeveloping countries encouraged to submit every 4 years
Guidelines for National Communications
No specific provisions in Paris Agreement, but National Communication submission every 4 years may continue
Biennial reportsGuidelines for BURs
BURs submitted biennially consistent with the level of support
BUR submissions with flexibility in scope, frequency and level of detail of reporting for developing countries that need it in the light of their capacities
Nationally determined contributionsAll Parties shall prepare, communicate, maintain and account for NDCs
Review or analysisAnalysis of BURs
ICA, facilitative sharing of views for developing countries
All parties to participate in review and consideration, with flexibility in scope for developing countries that need it

There is significant diversity among existing NDCs. For example, some specify targeted reductions in absolute emission levels, while others target reductions in GHG emission intensity (e.g. GHG per unit GDP); some are economy-wide targets, while others only specify certain sectors. There is little existing agreement on methods for measuring and reporting the progress of implementing these diverse forms of NDC. The Paris Agreement calls for “methodological consistency, including on baselines, between the communication and implementation of” NDCs and refers to “consistency between the methodology communicated in the NDCs and the methodology for reporting on the progress made towards achieving NDCs”. However, no further definition has been given of what consistency means.