Opening Perspectives

As the first week of COP 20 comes to a close, the race is still warming up, but we seesigns of hope in ADP Workstream 2 and further development in discussions on MRV.

The race is still much too early to call, and a tailwind coming into the final curve is needed to propel the UNFCCC process toward a strong finish at the end of next week. 

ADP Workstream 2: Tiny Steps

ADP Workstream 2 has taken a hopeful turn through an option in the draft decision text containing a proposed amendment which reads: “all parties shall communicate a nationally determined mitigation contribution for 2025”.  The crucial next step is for all Parties to voice support for the proposal and affirm their commitments to provide INDCs for 2025 (proposed by AILAC) along with an indicative 2030 target (proposed by Brazil).

Five-year commitment periods are important to ensure that mitigation commitments are responsive to changing circumstances; for example, the 2°C target is based on recommendations from the IPCC Second Assessment Review and has remained for nearly 20 years despite subsequent findings which demand rising ambition.  As previously noted, sustainable transport is a critical contributor to meeting this demand.

A number of parties have expressed appreciation to the commitments made at the Climate Summit held in September (which included 5 commitments on land transport) and considered the event as a success. Mexico and the U.S. concurred with the success of the Climate Summit but indicate that there is a need to further clarify the extent of “ministerial involvement” in INDCs and existing commitments. China specifically indicated that high-level involvement in INDCs is crucial to the adoption of a new climate agreement in Paris by 2015 as it drives political momentum to the process.

NAMA Day at COP 20

UNFCCC Secretary General Christiana Figueres and COP 20 President Manuel Pulgar Vidal opened this year’s NAMA Day event.  As Typhoon Hagupit made landfall in the Philippines, Figueres underscored the urgency of strong pre-2020 climate action, and applauded the flexibility of NAMAs to respond to this call.  Figueres stressed the crucial need for NAMAs to be born out of national circumstances and integrated into national plans, with contributions to the national economy as a driving force. “Because of the [current] lack of [global] action, I celebrate this event about action, about NAMAs”.

Rodrigo Suárez, Climate Change Director of Colombia’s Ministry of Environment emphasized that “[Colombia’s] big problem in the coming years will be in transport (unless we take action).”Transport was the first of Colombia’s six sectoral mitigation action plans to be approved, and Colombia’s NAMA portfolio contains three transport projects tackling various subsectors, including TOD, freight and non-motorized transport. 

Suárez also presented Colombia’s transport mitigation action curve, which relates pre-2020 actions to the development of NAMAs with international support, and post-2020 actions to the ongoing development of INDCs. The session continued with NAMA presentations from Chile, Ecuador, Kenya, Uganda; Peru, Thailand, Uruguay, underscoring strong demand for UNFCCC support in developing NAMAs and INDCs.

The forum was also addressed by a number of international financial institutions, including KFW (a funder of Colombia’s TOD NAMA), and CAF (which has experience with transport CDM projects).  CAF will increase its emphasis on transport in 2015, and has formed a partnership with UNFCCC to support countriesin the LAC region in developing standardized baselines for NAMA development.  In sum, financial institutions stand ready to support NAMAs that are based on solid policies and clear financial plans.

The forum concluded that NAMAs are a key instrument for pre-2020 action, and that they must have involvement from different stakeholders (private, public, civil society) and different levels of government (national, regional, local) to have real impact.  Solid baseline data, sound MRV methodology, and robust co-benefits are key elements to launch NAMAs and secure stakeholder support.  NAMAs can also be integrated with INDCs as a post-2020 instrument, for which they provide solid building blocks.

Transport MRV: Big Data to The Rescue?

As previously noted, MRV is a crucial element for the success of transport NAMAs, yet MRV submission, registration, and implementation processes are still underdeveloped. In addition, limited data availability – both top-down and bottom-up –and perceived complexity remain barriers to further defining MRV to support NAMA development.

These barriers were underscored in discussions on MRV in a COP 20 plenary session. On the one hand, the LMDCs, LDCs, the African Group and others emphasized differentiation throughan existing “two-track” approach, to avoid placing additional burden on developing countries.  On the other hand, Norway and Switzerland emphasized universality with flexibility for differing capabilities, and Australia, Japan and the US called for a single system to include tiers based on Parties’ circumstances.

In potential response to this divide, the specific challenge of MRV in transport was discussed in a side event by Climate-KIC, which pointed out that data collection on public transport performance, mode shift, and passenger volume is very time-consuming and expensive; that is why only a small share of transport projects have been approved through the CDM and NAMA mechanisms.

Aproposed innovation is to use Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) data (rather than on-site surveys) to significantly reduce the time and cost of tracking transport data. GSM data are retrieved from mobile phones and can be translated into emission reductions based on vehicle occupancy rates, fuel efficiency, and emissions of the alternative mode. CDM methodologies for mass transit and BRT are two suitable tools to calculate emission reductions based on the three parameters.

GSM data is part of the emerging proposal to harness the potential of big data application in the transport sector.  Nevertheless, there is still a lack of pilot projects using big data for MRV in transport, and thus it is essential that the linkage between the two be further discussed and analyzed under the UNFCCC process.

MRV, NAMAs, and INDCs: All Together Now

Transparency, equity, and ambition in MRV, NAMAs, and INDCs were discussed in a side event organized by the New Climate Institute and World Resources Institute.

CSPR stressed the importance of MRV in the development of NAMA and INDCs, pointing out that only 39 out of 127 projects in the NAMA Registry include emissions reductions estimates, and of these 39, only 10 have developed MRV standards. This shows that the earlier the transport sector can develop sound MRV standards, the easier will be to stay ahead of the curve in qualifying for NAMAs and transitioning towards INDCs (similar to the energy sector, which is heavily-favored in the CDM framework).

The Ministry of Transport and Communications in Peru presented on TransPeru, the sustainable urban transport NAMA, which has established a strong MRV framework to calculate costs and project emissions reductions. For example, annual congestion costs for Lima are calculated at US$17 billion, which strengthens the case for a sustainable transport scheme to reduce emissions, improve air quality and decrease accidents.

The New a Climate Institute expanded on the evolution of NAMAs into INDCs, underscoring that NAMAs have matured greatly and numbers have quadrupled in only three years, due to pioneering work by national entities with technical assistance from outside experts, which has increased NAMA awareness, capacity, and funding options.  NCI argued that NAMAs would continue to play an important role in the post-2020 process by directly guiding the transition to INDCs, acknowledging that NAMAs are builton a voluntary framework while INDCs are to be part of a binding global treaty. 

Closing Thoughts

In closing NAMA Day, Executive Secretary Figueres summed up preparing the post-2020 process: “The world is ready for the marathon. We have been training for the marathon whether we realize it or not”.  She described the transition from project-driven CDMs to policy-based NAMAs to economy-wide INDCs, which will be the basis from which Parties will define national contributions and global responsibilities. Figueres stressed that a 2015 agreement is no upstart, but has been in the works for years.

With these sentiments, the race shows potential signs of building momentum, but we still await greater movement in the COP 20 negotiations in the week ahead that will facilitate the transformational change required in the transport sector to meet emissions targets and development goals, both on the long road to Paris and in the post-2020 framework.

Upcoming Transport Events at COP 20

Please visit the Transport Day website for a full listing of COP 20 transport events.