Draft of 5th U.S. Climate Action Report required by climate treaty posted for 28-day public review

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The U.S. government on April 7 issued the public review draft of its fifth “national communication” required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  U.S. Climate Action Report 2010 is the first comprehensive statement so far from the Obama Administration on actions the U.S. is taking at all levels to address climate change. The U.S. is one of only four countries that has not yet submitted its report, which was due on January 1.

Drawing from a post on the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Blog (see the WWF post directly for a more extensive set of embedded links):

Obama Administration Issues Draft of Major Comprehensive Report on Actions U.S. is Taking to Address Climate Change

An April 8 Federal Register notice announced the beginning of a 28-day public review period that will close on May 6.  The notice says:

“The draft Fifth CAR [Climate Action Report] provides a detailed report on U.S. actions to address climate change. This report contains descriptions of specific measured and verified actions, outlines of broad policy initiatives, and summaries of activities conducted by the U.S. since the fourth CAR, principally at the federal level. It also explains U.S. Government efforts to increase scientific understanding of climate change, and provide foreign assistance to help other nations mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

Table of Contents of the draft report (see here for embedded links to individual chapters, in PDF format):

Table of Contents [339 Kb]
1. Executive Summary [105 Kb]
2. National Circumstances [329 Kb]
3. Greenhouse Gas Inventory [989 Kb]
4. Policies and Measures [877 Kb]
5. Projected Greenhouse Gas Emissions [576 Kb]
6. Vulnerability Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, and Adaptation Measures [164 Kb]
7. Financial Resources and Technology Transfer [265 Kb]
8. Research and Systematic Observation [175 Kb]
9. Education, Training and Outreach [726 Kb]
Appendices A [283 Kb]
Appendices B [125 Kb]

(Climate Science Watch will focus our review primarily on Chapters 6 and 8.)

Background

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires periodic “national communications” from industrialized countries listed in Annex I of the convention.
So far, all Annex I countries have each submitted four reports over the years. The fifth national communications were due January 1, 2010.  All but these four countries have submitted reports: U.S., Monaco, Slovenia and Turkey. See this table for a listing of the reports that have been submitted; all are available online.

In the United States, the State Department is the lead agency in producing the report, and the report here is typically referred to as the “Climate Action Report.”  Four have been produced so far and are often referred to as CAR-1, CAR-2, CAR-3 and CAR-4; or by the year published (Climate Action Report 2006, etc).  The first two were produced under Clinton and the 3rd and 4th reports were published under Bush. They have been the only routine and comprehensive statements to the world community of what the U.S. is doing on climate change.

The reports are important summaries of actions countries are taking to address climate change and to meet their commitments under the convention.  They follow a required format which allows the UNFCCC Secretariat – and others – to compare actions across countries. The required chapters include:

I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

II. NATIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES RELEVANT TO GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND REMOVALS

III. GREENHOUSE GAS INVENTORY INFORMATION
A. Summary tables (or as an annex to the national communication)
B. Descriptive summary

IV. POLICIES AND MEASURES
A. Policy-making process
B. Policies and measures and their effects
C. Policies and measures no longer in place

V. PROJECTIONS AND THE TOTAL EFFECT OF POLICIES AND MEASURES
A. Projections
Diagrams
B. Assessment of aggregate effects of policies and measures
C. Methodology

VI. VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS AND ADAPTATION MEASURES
A. Expected impacts of climate change
B. Vulnerability Assessment
C. Adaptation measures

VII. FINANCIAL RESOURCES AND TRANSFER OF TECHNOLOGY
A. Provision of ‘new and additional’ resources
B. Assistance to developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to climate change
C. Provision of financial resources
D. Activities related to transfer of technology

VIII. RESEARCH AND SYSTEMATIC OBSERVATION
A. General policy on research and systematic observation
B. Research
C. Systematic observation

IX. EDUCATION, TRAINING AND PUBLIC AWARENESS

Once reports are issued, the Secretariat organizes “in depth reviews” of each report (which are publicly available) and ultimately produces a “compilation and synthesis” report. 

The forthcoming report, called U.S. Climate Action Report 2010, also will be late. The process started with a Federal Register notice announcing that the production of the CAR had begun, soliciting comments and providing a rough schedule. That notice was issued on July 30, 2009, and indicated that the draft would be available “in fall of 2009.” That schedule obviously slipped. The FR Notice that published on April 8 finally marks the release of the draft and the beginning of the public review process.  One the review is over, the report will be revised and released in final form late this spring or during the summer.

Related Online Resources (see WWF post for links)

Climate Action Report 2006. Fourth National Communication.  Final Report . See also Report of the centralized in-depth review of the fourth national communication of the United States of America (Feb 17 2009)

Climate Action Report 2002.  Third National Communication.  Also available online here.  Available on CD from the GCRIO Online Catalog.  See also Report on the in-depth review of the third national communication of the United States of America [PDF] , published (21 Sept 2004) by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Climate Action Report (1997).  Second National Communication. [PDF].  See also Report on the in-depth review of the second national communication of the United States of America [PDF] , published (12 May 1999) by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Climate Action Report (1994).  First National Communication.  See also Report on the in-depth review of the first national communication of the United States of America [PDF] , published (26 February 1996) by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Earlier CSW posts on the last Climate Action Report (CAR-4, 2007):

Bush Administration submits evasive Climate Action Report to the UN (July 30, 2007)

IPCC North America climate change impacts chapter shows evasiveness of U.S. Climate Action Report (May 8, 2007)

“Impacts and Adaptation” chapter of U.S. Climate Action Report 2007 is an evasive failure (May 7, 2007)

More on the Administration’s long-withheld U.S. Climate Action Report (March 12, 2007)

Additional discussion, for the record, of what transpired in connection with the Bush Administration’s release of the Third Climate Action Report in 2002 will be the subject of a separate post.

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