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Harvard Project and Enel Foundation Host COP-24 Panel on Implementing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement

  • Doug Gavel
| Dec. 13, 2018

One of two necessary conditions for ultimate success of the Paris Agreement has already been met — namely an adequate scope of participation — with 97 percent of global emissions associated with countries that have taken on responsibilities under the Paris Agreement, compared with 13 percent under the former Kyoto Protocol regime. But a second condition for ultimate success — adequate ambition of individual contributions — has not yet been met. How can the Paris Agreement facilitate, indeed encourage, such increases in ambition? Market measures can be part of the answer.

The critical role that market mechanisms can play in international global climate change efforts was the focus of discussion Tuesday (Dec. 11) at an official side event at the 24th meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) in Katowice, Poland. The event, “Elaborating and Implementing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement,” was co-hosted by the Enel Foundation and the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements. It attracted more than 200 audience members inside the Pavilion, and thousands of others viewing the live webcast around the world. The webcast of the complete panel event — via Skype Meeting — is archived and available here.

Event participants included Michael Mehling, deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) at MIT; Daniele Agostini, head of Low Carbon and Energy Policies for the Enel Group; and Juan Pedro Searle, chief of Climate Change Unit, Ministry of Energy, Chile. The discussion was moderated by Robert Stavins, A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy & Economic Development at Harvard Kennedy School.

Framing the discussion, Stavins noted that Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is a critical tool for incentivizing nations to work together on an accelerating pace toward the common goal of greenhouse gas reductions.

“International linkage of national climate policies can provide the means to lower abatement costs dramatically and thereby give countries the latitude to increase the ambition over time of their respective contributions,” Stavins stated. “Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement can provide the key mechanism for carrying out such linkage under the Paris Agreement without compromising environmental integrity.”

Stavins introduced Mehling, whose recent paper, “Governing Cooperative Approaches under the Paris Agreement,” was sponsored by the Enel Foundation and is published by the Harvard Project.

Mehling’s research examines the options available to the parties as they build a governance framework which can properly balance safeguards intended to regulate climate action with the flexibility necessary to elicit greater participation.

“Experience has shown that mature and liquid markets rely on diversity of participation. That’s a strong argument against outright exclusion of non-Party actors, including private entities, from cooperative approaches under Article 6. Also, empirical data tell us that some concerns may be misplaced, such as fears that Article 6 may incentivize countries to weaken future mitigation pledges,” Mehling stated.

Mehling concluded that a successful governance framework will be transparent and will contain accurate accounting, will include harmonized definitions and metrics, and will avoid restrictions that limit participation and increase transaction costs and investor risk. Top-down paradigms should be avoided, he argued, but some basic safeguards will be needed to ensure compliance and lower emissions.

A link to Mehling’s presentation is at the bottom of this page.

In his response, Searle argued on behalf of a decentralized governance structure, but with strong “top-down guidance,” claiming that “the risk is so big” for a developing country like Chile.

“If Chile would like to a join a club with Japan, New Zealand, and Canada, we will have to follow, cope with those rules. There is no way they will accept us if we don’t have a robust system in place,” he said. “All countries sitting together in this endeavor have the same chances of succeeding if we put a lot of effort and money into it.”

Agostini responded to Mehling’s research from the perspective of a private sector actor in the global climate change effort.

“As a private sector player, we are quite frustrated with the slow speed of progress on what’s going to happen with these mechanisms, and we think one of the key issues here is the ambition issue…I don’t think that these mechanisms are seen as a catalyzer of ambition. There is a communication gap here…and this is a way of increasing the ambition that we very badly need,” he said. “Trading emission reductions mechanisms need to be seen as a ‘means to an end’ where the end is greater ambition, not an ‘easy way out.’”

After the panelists fielded and responded to several questions from members of the audience, Mehling summarized the challenges facing the negotiators at COP-24 as they determine the proper mechanisms to put into place.

“It is very much about whether we think of it as a risk that has to be regulated and mitigated, or as an opportunity that has to be enabled. And somewhere there, we have to find a balance,” he said. “I hope that what comes out of the [COP-24] negotiations is an adequate balance.”

For more information on this publication: Please contact Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
For Academic Citation: Gavel, Doug. “Harvard Project and Enel Foundation Host COP-24 Panel on Implementing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.” News, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, December 13, 2018.

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