Where is the U.S. Climate Action Report required under the climate treaty?

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The fourth U.S. Climate Action Report, required to fulfill a climate treaty commitment, was due no later than January 1, 2006.  A public review draft of the report announced by the State Department as upcoming in the summer of 2005 is now more than a year overdue.  What has happened to this missing-in-action report?  Has it been held up at the political level of the Administration?  Climate Science Watch calls for the fourth Climate Action Report to be submitted expeditiously for public review.  We call on the Administration and the leadership of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to ensure that the report contains an honest discussion of U.S. vulnerability to climate change impacts.    [Editor’s Note: See also the 30 July 2007 posting, Bush Administration submits evasive Climate Action Report to the UN.]

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the climate treaty to which the United States is a party, sets forth requirements for UNFCCC Parties to provide periodically a national communication that lists the steps they are taking to implement the Convention.  The U.S. Climate Action Report is a series of official national communications that has been submitted by the U.S. Government to the UNFCCC Secretariat to fulfill this commitment.

According to an April 2005 State Department announcement in the Federal Register (see full text at the end of this post), the fourth national Climate Action Report was due no later than January 1, 2006.  The State Department announced that a draft of the report would be posted for public review in the Summer of 2005.  The public review draft is now more than a year overdue. 

We recall the last national communication, Climate Action Report 2002: The United States of America’s Third National Communication Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was submitted to the climate treaty secretariat in 2002. 

Chapter 6, “Impacts and Adaptation,” drafted to meet the requirement for a discussion in the national communication of “Vulnerability Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, and Adaptation Measures,” addressed U.S. vulnerabilities to the adverse consequences of climate change and identified the most promising adaptation measures being explored.

Chapter 6 on Impacts and Adaptation was based to a large extent on the results of the First U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change—a seminal body of work that has been suppressed by the administration.  (We have discussed the First National Assessment scandal in a number of posts, including, for example, those of August 28, 2006, January 4, 2006, and June 2, 2005

When the identification in Chapter 6 of a wide range of likely adverse impacts of climate change on the United States prompted an article in the New York Times, the President essentially disowned this official U.S. Government communication, which had been vetted and cleared by all the relevant agencies and the White House, with a cavalier reference to it as a “report put out by the bureaucracy.”

So now we await the fourth Climate Action Report.  Will it ever be released by this Administration?  Will it first be posted for public review and comment?  Why has it been held up for a year?  In our experience with the federal climate change program, lengthy delays in issuing climate change reports drafted by federal agencies are virtually never due primarily to career program managers and experts in the agencies failing to meet drafting deadlines set from above.  Delays are the result of the process of high-level review and final clearance to publish required at the political/policy level of the Administration.   

We know that there has been no systematic follow-up to the First National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts that was published in 2000-2001.  Almost six years after the publication of the First National Assessment, the Administration and the leadership of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program have put nothing in place that could serve as a coherent, alternative integrative framework for an updated Climate Action Report chapter on Vulnerability Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, and Adaptation Measures.  From our experience and observation of the Administration’s actions to manipulate the communication of climate change research and assessment, there is a particular political sensitivity to allowing honest communication about observed potential societal and environmental impacts of climate change.

If the fourth U.S. Climate Action Report has, in fact, been delayed at the political level, we would hypothesize that the delay is centered in the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in coordination with the State Department, and probably involves, along with whatever other considerations are in play, a reluctance by the White House to officially acknowledge, as a U.S. government statement, the nation’s vulnerability to the likely impacts of climate change. 

Climate Science Watch calls for the fourth Climate Action Report to be submitted expeditiously for public review.  We call on the Administration and the leadership of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to ensure that the report relies on the best available information on climate change impacts, starting with the First National Assessment as a baseline and updating with the growing body of scientific findings on impacts that has been developed during the last five years, much of which is the result of research supported by the federal government.  Experts and stakeholders should be ready to subject to critical scrutiny the chapter on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation, when and if it is ever made available

Full text of the State Department Federal Register notice:

[Federal Register: April 8, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 67)]
[Notices]         
[Page 18066-18067]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr08ap05-111]               

=======================================================================
———————————————————————————————————-

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific
Affairs

[Public Notice 5041]

Preparation of Fourth U.S. Climate Action Report

AGENCY: Department of State.

ACTION: Notice.

———————————————————————————————————-

SUMMARY: The United States is a Party to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Convention sets forth
requirements for UNFCCC Parties to provide a national communication
that lists the steps they are taking to implement the Convention. In
particular, Parties are to provide: An inventory of anthropogenic
emissions by sources and removal by sinks of all greenhouse gases not
controlled by the Montreal Protocol; a detailed description of the
policies and measures adopted to implement their commitments under the
Convention; and estimates of the effects those policies and measures
will have on emissions and sinks. Subsequent guidelines further
elaborate the information that Parties are to submit periodically. The
United States submitted the first U.S. Climate Action Report (USCAR) to
the UNFCCC Secretariat in 1994, the second in 1997, and the third in
2002. The U.S. Government is currently preparing its fourth national
communication, which is due to the UNFCCC secretariat no later than
January 1, 2006. The purpose of this announcement is to notify
interested members of the public of this process and to solicit
contributions and input on the issues covered in the national
communication for the purpose of preparing the report. The State
Department intends to make available for public review a draft national
communication in summer of 2005.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before noon, April 29,
2005.

ADDRESSES: To expedite their receipt, comments should be submitted via
e-mail to: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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. Comments may also be submitted in
hard copy to Mr. Graham M. Pugh, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of
Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Office
of Global Change (Room 4330), 2201 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20520.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Graham M. Pugh, U.S. Department of
State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific
Affairs, Office of Global Change at (202) 647-4688.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Fourth United States Climate Action Report (CAR)

Articles 4.2 and 12 set forth initial requirements for national
communications. Subsequently, Parties to the UNFCCC elaborated
additional detailed guidelines relating to the content of the national
communications. An overview of the reporting requirements is available
from the UNFCCC Web site at: [LINK], while details regarding preparation of the fourth national communication are at: [LINK].

Guidelines specify chapter headings and the type of information
that should be included in the report. Chapters are identified below.

Table of Contents

I. Executive Summary
II. National Circumstances
III. Greenhouse Gas Inventory
IV. Policies and Measures
V. Projections and Effects of Policies and Measures
VI. Vulnerability Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, and Adaptation
Measures
VII. Financial Resources and Transfer of Technology
VIII. Research and Systematic Observation
IX. Education, Training, and Public Awareness

In keeping with UNFCCC guidelines, the Fourth CAR will provide an
inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks and an estimate of
the effects of mitigation policies and measures on future emissions
levels. It will describe domestic programs as well as U.S. involvement
in international efforts, including technology programs and associated
contributions and funding.
 
In addition, the text will include a discussion of U.S. national
circumstances that affect U.S. vulnerability and responses to climate
change. Information on the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP),
Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP), Global Climate Observing
Systems (GCOS), and adaptation programs will also presented.

Public Input Process

This Federal Register notice solicits contributions and comments on
all matters to be covered in the fourth U.S. CAR and in particular, on
issues related to non-federal, State, regional, local, and private
sector actions to address climate change. Comments may be submitted to
the contact listed above.
 
In addition, the U.S. will release the draft text of the fourth CAR
for review and comment in the summer of 2005. Comments on that document
will be due within 30 days of release. Because of the tight time
constraints on completing and printing the final text, a longer review
period will not be possible.
 
We invite input now on all aspects of the document currently under
development, including its content, format, and graphics. Comments
received in response to this Federal Register notice will be considered
in the preparation of the draft of the fourth national communication.
 
You may view the 2002 U.S. Climate Action Report on the Internet
at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/natc/usnc3.pdf.

Dated: April 1, 2005.
Daniel A. Reifsnyder,
Office Director, Office of Global Change, Bureau of Oceans and
International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of
State.
[FR Doc. 05-7044 Filed 4-7-05; 8:45 am]

 

 

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