Q&A on the Public Review Draft of the Sixth U.S. Climate Action Report (CAR6)


What is the U.S. Climate Action Report? Why is the 6th Climate Action Report important? What happens next with the public review draft? Which countries submit National Communications to the UNFCCC? When were previous National Communications submitted? What are the required contents? What are the new Biennial Reports and their required contents? Answers to these questions and more follow.

See earlier September 26 post: 2014 U.S. Climate Action Report for public review and comment

Public Review Draft of the Sixth U.S. Climate Action Report (CAR6):
Questions and Answers

Produced by Nick Sundt, World Wildlife Fund, 25 September 2013

What is the U.S. Climate Action Report?

The U.S. Climate Action Report (CAR) is report that the U.S. periodically submits to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The draft CAR that is available for public review starting Thursday, 26 September, is CAR6 — the 6th CAR the U.S. has submitted to the UNFCCC. It contains two periodic reports to the UNFCC Secretariat: the sixth “National Communication” (NC6) and the first “Biennial Report” (BR1).

Why is the 6th Climate Action Report Important?

  • CAR6 will provide a detailed assessment by the Administration on progress under the President’s Climate Action Plan, including the extent to which the plan may reduce U.S. emissions by 2020.
  • The reports are the only periodic comprehensive overviews by the U.S. government of past and projected U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, of climate change vulnerability and impacts, and of actions the U.S. is taking to address climate change and meet its obligations under the UNFCCC.
  • The Biennial Report is to include an estimate of projected U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 under a “with measures’ scenario” that reflects “currently implemented and adopted policies and measures.” This will be the first time the U.S. has projected emissions beyond 2020 in a Climate Action Report.
  • The draft report relates to several other important recent or upcoming matters:

o   The President’s Climate Action Plan

o   U.S. energy planning, including the Quadrennial Energy Review announced as part   of the President’s Climate Action Plan

o   The Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant regulations

o   Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

o   U.S. National Climate Assessment

o   Future development of a post-2020 emission reduction commitment by the US under the UNFCCC

  • Because the reports follow the same guidelines, comparisons are more readily made between reports (reports from different countries or reports from previous years)
  • The reports are subject to international review and assessment

What happens next with the draft Climate Action Report?

CAR6 is subject to public comment before its submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat. A Federal Register Notice (26 September 2013) from the U.S. Department of State indicates that CAR6 is available for a 28-day public review process from 26 Sept to 24 October athttp://www.state.gov/e/oes/climate/ccreport2014/index.htm.  Because this will be the only opportunity for formal public comments on elements of the President’s Climate Action Plan described in CAR6, as well as a further opportunity to express support for Administration action on power plant standards, groups may decide to encourage their members to submit comments on the plan or choose to submit organizational comments.

Will Other Countries Submit National Communications to the UNFCCC?

Yes.  Each party listed in Annex I of the UNFCCC is required to periodically communicate through the UNFCCC secretariat information on actions taken or planned to meet commitments under the convention.  The sixth such “national communication” to the UNFCCC (NC6) is due by 1 January 2014.  Annex I countries are industrialized countries and economies in transition (including the Russian Federation). As these are submitted, they are posted at http://unfccc.int/national_reports/annex_i_natcom/submitted_natcom/items/7742.php

Have any Countries Already Submitted their Sixth National Communication?

As of 25 September 2013, only Australia’s Sixth National Communication on Climate Change [PDF] had been submitted (on 5 August 2013).

When were previous National Communications Submitted to the UNFCCC?

The frequency of National Communications is determined by the parties to the convention. Thus far, they have been required roughly every four years.” According to the UNFCCC Secretariat: “Most of the 41 Annex I Parties submitted their first report…in 1994 or 1995, their second in 1997–1998 and the third after 30 November 2001. The fourth NCs were due on 1 January 2006 and the fifth on 1 January 2010.” Previous National Communications are available via the UNFCCC Submitted National Communications (Annex I) Web page.

The previous U.S. National Communications are as follows:

December 1992 (Bush): National Action Plan for Global Climate Change.  Though presented as “the United States’ first communication to the Secretariat,” it technically is not the first National Communication under the Convention since the UNFCCC did not enter into force until 21 March 1994.

1.      1994 (Clinton): First Climate Action Report.  “[T]he first formal communication” under the UNFCCC.

2.      1997 (Clinton): Second Climate Action Report

3.      2002 (Bush): Third Climate Action Report (submitted 28 May 2002; was due no later than November 30, 2001)

4.      2006 (Bush): Fourth Climate Action Report (submitted 27 July 2007; was due 1 January 2006)

5.      2010 (Obama): Fifth Climate Action Report (submitted 28 May 2010; due 1 January 2010)

What are the Required Contents of National Communications?

The contents of the National Communications are specified in detail in the UNFCCC guidelines on reporting and review.  Each NC is to be structured as follows:

I.  Executive Summary

II.  National Circumstances Relevant to Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals

III.  Greenhouse Gas Inventory Information

IV.  Policies and Measures.  “Policies and measures reported on should be those planned, adopted and/or implemented by governments at national, state, provincial, regional and local level.”

V.  Projections and the Total Effect of Policies and Measures. The guidelines require projections for 2015 and 2020 “with measures,” i.e. projections that reflect “currently implemented and adopted policies and measures.” Projections beyond 2020 are not required.

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

Are Annex I Countries Required to Submit any other Report to The UNFCCC by 1 January 2014?

Yes.  For the first time, Annex I countries also are obligated to submit a “Biennial Report” by 1 January 2014.  This can be a separate document or can be coupled to the National Communication (as the U.S. has done with CAR6).  Biennial Reports will be posted by the UNFCCC Secretariat on its Submitted Biennial Reports Web page. As of 25 September 2013, no Biennial Reports had been submitted and publicly posted.

What are the Required Contents of the Biennial Reports?

The required contents of the Biennial Report are defined in the UNFCCC document, Common tabular format for “UNFCCC biennial reporting guidelines for developed country Parties.”  According to the guidelines: “Each Annex I Party shall provide information on its mitigation actions, including policies and measures it has implemented or plans to implement since its last national communication or biennial report to achieve its economy-wide emission reduction target.  To the extent appropriate, Parties shall organize reporting of mitigation actions by sector … and by gas.”

According to the UNFCCC document, Compilation of economy-wide emission reduction targets to be implemented by Parties included in Annex I to the Convention (7 June 2011):

“The United States communicated a target in the range of a 17 per cent emission reduction by 2020 compared with 2005 levels, in conformity with anticipated United States energy and climate legislation, recognizing that the final target will be reported to the secretariat in the light of the enacted legislation. In addition, the pathway set forth in pending legislation would entail a 30 per cent emission reduction by 2025 and a 42 per cent emission reduction by 2030, in line with the goal to reduce emissions by 83 per cent by 2050.”

The Biennial Report also must include [in Table 6(a) of the report] “updated projections for 2020 and 2030” under a “with measures’ scenario” that reflects “currently implemented and adopted policies and measures.” Table 5 of the BR must summarize the key variables and assumptions used in the projections.

Does the UNFCCC Secretariat Review or Synthesize the National Communications and Biennial Reports?

Yes. Each National Communication is followed by an in-depth review.  Past reviews of the U.S. reports include:

In addition, the UNFCCC Secretariat prepares compilation and synthesis reports that summarizes all of the National Communications.

Similarly, under an international assessment and review (IAR) process, each Biennial Report will be subject to a technical review summarized in a report. Also, there will be a multilateral assessment of each Biennial Report.  For additional details see the UNFCCC Secretariat Web page on The International Assessment and Review Process.

*    *    *

Earlier CSW posts:

Obama’s climate action plan: The devil is in the follow-through

President Obama and The Climate Emergency

This entry was posted in Obama Administration, Obama Climate Plan, Science-Policy Interaction. Bookmark the permalink.