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How to prevent the “double counting” of emission reductions in the Paris Agreement

A new study in Science lays out three principles for UN climate negotiators, to ensure international carbon markets don’t hinder climate goals.

Published on 11 October 2019

Countries must agree to a Paris Agreement rulebook that avoids the “double counting” of emission reductions, or risk undermining the agreement, according to a new study in Science.

The study addresses a nuanced but crucial part of the Paris Agreement: the establishment of a framework that allows countries to meet their climate mitigation targets through the use of greenhouse gas emission reductions achieved outside their borders. The rules for this section on international carbon markets – known as Article 6 – will be negotiated at the upcoming UN climate conference in Santiago, Chile in December.

The study’s authors – including former SEI Associate Lambert Schneider, who is now Research Coordinator for International Climate Policy with the Institute for Applied Ecology (Oeko Institut), and SEI Senior Scientists Derik Broekhoff and Michael Lazarus – emphasize the need for common international accounting rules that protect against double-counting, or the use of the same emission reduction more than once to achieve climate mitigation targets.

“To build a solid basis for international cooperation that can cost-effectively combat climate change, the Paris Agreement needs international carbon market rules that ensure environmental integrity and avoid double counting,” the authors wrote in the study. “Otherwise, international carbon markets might instead seriously undermine this carefully constructed climate agreement.”

The study provides three principles to guide the negotiations in Santiago:

  1. A single set of common international accounting rules should apply to all carbon market mechanisms. This is not only important for avoiding double counting but also for creating a level playing field for international carbon markets.
  2. Accounting rules should be sufficiently robust. This could be achieved, for example, by accounting in common greenhouse gas (GHG) emission metrics, over continuous multiyear periods.
  3. Over time, all countries engaging in international carbon markets should adopt emission reduction targets that are economy-wide, cover all GHGs, apply to common multi-year time periods, and are expressed as GHG emissions.
Topics and subtopics
Climate : Climate policy, Mitigation
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