Interview / 18 Mar, 2019
Wanted: Expert Reviewers to Enable Transparency of Climate Action

UN Climate Change News, 18 March 2019 - Global efforts are being ramped up to help countries report on their greenhouse gas emissions and action they are taking to reduce them. UN Climate Change is encouraging more expert reviewers to help with this crucial effort, a point made at a meeting of lead reviewers this month in Bonn, Germany.

Transparency is a key element of effective national and international climate action and covers not only reporting on efforts to curb greenhouse gases, but also building resilience to the inevitable impacts of climate change and the means of implementation such as finance, technology transfer and capacity-building.

“Qualified technical review experts nominated by countries are key to operate the enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement. The lead reviewers meeting, as a forum of experienced reviewers, has been providing guidance and advice on how to improve the quality, efficiency and consistency of technical expert reviews under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, and will engage also shaping the reviews under the Paris Agreement,” says Katia Simeonova, Manager with the Mitigation and Data Analysis Programme of UN Climate Change.

The task of reviewer is voluntary. However, their job is extremely important, and their enthusiasm for the task is impressive. At the meeting of 150 lead reviewers at the secretariat of UN Climate Change in Bonn, participants shared their impressions on what was achieved so far.

Thelma Krug, is a senior researcher, assistant to the Director at the National Institute for Space Research in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in Brazil and is the Vice Chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For more than 15 years, she has been negotiating for Brazil on issues related to the land use, and has gained a lot of experience in being a reviewer.

“What I like most is that you can help countries to improve their inventories,” she says. “You can explain to them how possibly you would do it yourself considering your experiences, in my case those I have gained in my own country in doing the inventory of Brazil. And no matter how much experience you gain, you yourself are learning, learning, and learning. And you’re communicating with others coming from so many different cultures with different national circumstances.”

Nick Macaluso, Director of the Model Development and Quantitative Research Division, Economic Analysis Directorate within the Strategic Policy Branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada, deferred his retirement so that he could continue with the task of voluntary reviewer. What he also most appreciates about the job is the learning experience, which he says works both ways – for the reviewer and for the country that is being reviewed.

“You learn a lot from different countries. I did my first analysis of a biennial update report this year and that was really interesting working with individuals from the developing world and the sort of insights that they have,” he says.

“Canada gets reviewed just like the other developed countries and the first time that I did the in-country review I actually brought back my experiences to the team that was actually getting ready for Canada’s in-country review so the types of questions that would be asked, what types of levels of efforts we would need to make,” he adds.

Many reviewers stress the importance of the valuable insights they gain from contacts with other experts and talking to them there. Marcela Olguin-Alvarez, Senior consultant/ Latin America Greenhouse Gas Estimation, Reporting, and Mitigation Modeling Expert, has been both a reviewer and has been participating in some of Mexico’s national communications and greenhouse gas emissions inventories. She shares the impression of both Thelma Krug and Nick Macaluso that being a reviewer is highly rewarding as it is a two-way street:

“It is a unique learning opportunity because of the chance to go to some of these countries and understand a lot from very knowledgeable people within the country. They all help to improve your own reporting but also to understand more how other countries have been reporting and how they have been improving over time and overcoming some of the key challenges of the process,” she says.

Marcela Olguin-Alvarez underlines that being a reviewer means accumulating expertise that can be shared outside of the core review process with others. In her case, this has contributed to valuable regional capacity building, given that she attends many other meetings with delegates from Central and South America and can share her knowledge there.

Many lead reviewers hold senior positions in government, such as those mentioned above, but more junior members of review teams are needed.  Experts who work in the countries on measurement, reporting and verification of climate change actions and support can contribute and in the same time can benefit from the review experience most.  Policy analysts, economic modelers, greenhouse gas inventory compilers and financial experts are welcome to join the international verification process. For information on how to qualify as the expert click here.

How transparency under the UNFCCC is being stepped up

At the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2018, countries adopted the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement, including for an enhanced transparency framework.

They agreed that all nations, developed and developing will report biennially on their climate change achievements and challenges.

This means that starting in 2022, the number of experts needs to at least double to implement the transparency framework to around 1500 experts by 2024 to meet the requirements agreed under Katowice rulebook on transparency.

The enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement builds on the current, solid measurement, reporting and verification system under the Convention. The enhanced transparency framework represents an important component of the ambition cycle in the global climate regime established by the Paris Agreement by building trust and confidence that countries are taking action to meet both their pre-2020 targets and their national climate action plans (‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ or ‘NDCs’) under the Paris Agreement.

Furthermore, in addition to scientific research and findings by the IPCC, the national climate and greenhouse emission reports of counties will create an important input into the global stock-take, leading to stronger climate action that will continue as the climate regimes moves towards the goal of zero net emissions by 2050 and climate neutrality thereafter.

More information on the review process can be found  here.