Both China and India have now reaffirmed that they will report their global warming emissions every two years. The framework of this was agreed in the Copenhagen Accord which outlined that every two years developing countries will report their national emissions inventories and emission reduction actions based upon internationally agreed guidelines (as I discussed here). 

Here is what the Accord actually said in this regard:

“Mitigation actions subsequently taken and envisaged by Non-Annex I Parties, including national inventory reports, shall be communicated through national communications…every two years on the basis of guidelines to be adopted by the Conference of the Parties”

And now two key players in those portions of the agreement have just reiterated to domestic audiences that they will implement this provision. That is a very positive move which takes further international steps to address global warming as agreed in the Copenhagen Accord (as I discussed here).

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China’s chief climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, highlighted before the National People’s Congress (the legislative body in China) that under the requirements of the Copenhagen Accord, China has agreed to submit an inventory report every two years to the U.N. Secretariat (as my colleague reported). And Indian Minister Jairam Ramesh just announced that they will be releasing an emissions inventory for 2007 in May, to be updated every two years (as reported by The Hindu). 

So why is this so important from an environmental standpoint? One of the fundamentals of any environmental policy is a three step process of knowing:

  1. Where you currently are (e.g., how good, bad, or ugly is your current environmental situation);
  2. Where you want to head (e.g., what are you trying to achieve in order to solve the challenge); and
  3. Where you are at various points towards your end goal — point 2 (e.g., in 2 years time are you making good progress towards your goal or not).

Creating a process to improve the assessment of progress. Before the Copenhagen Accord, the world had an incomplete system of accountability and transparency. All countries developed national emissions inventories and submitted “National Communications” containing summary information on national emissions, actions that the country was undertaking to reduce emissions, and reports on the country’s progress. But these National Communications have been extremely limited for developing countries as they have been too infrequent to generate information on current trends. For the most part, official information on developing country emissions dates back to 1994. That is an incomplete snapshot as we know that those emissions have changed dramatically since then.  For example in 1994 China and India accounted for 14 and 4 percent of the world’s emissions from fossil fuels and now they account for 22 and 5 percent, respectively — both country’s emissions essentially doubling over that timeframe.* 

So the announcements by Chinese and Indian officials are important steps to improve the environmental assessment provisions of the international framework. And it will add confidence to efforts to regularly assess the progress that countries are making towards their commitments recorded as a part of the Copenhagen Accord (as I discussed here). 

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Going into Copenhagen we effectively had official global warming emissions from developing countries reported every 15 years and now we have emissions reported every 2 years.  A point highlighted by Minister Ramesh: “The last data on emissions dates back to 1994”.

So the fact that the world didn’t have good, regularly updated, and consistent information on where key countries emissions stood and a system to regularly assess progress was a significant limitation.  But this limitation is slowly being eliminated as countries take concrete steps to implement the key provisions of the Copenhagen Accord.  China and India have now reaffirmed to important domestic audiences that they will move forward domestically with the transparency provisions — a critical cornerstone of the agreement reached in Copenhagen.


* Data from the World Resources Institute’s Climate Analysis Indicator tool for 1994 and 2006, respectively.

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