Addressing the risk of double counting emission reductions under the UNFCCC

Abstract

Avoiding double counting of emission reductions is a key policy concern to Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Double counting of emission reductions can occur when a single greenhouse gas emission reduction or removal, achieved through a mechanism issuing units, is accounted more than once towards attaining mitigation pledges. We systematically assess how double counting can occur and how it could be addressed. We identify that double issuance – the issuance of two units for the same reductions – and double claiming – the accounting of the same reductions both in a greenhouse gas inventory and in units towards attaining a mitigation pledge – are the most important forms of double counting. They can occur not only directly, but in rather indirect ways which can be challenging to identify. Addressing double counting effectively requires international coordination in three areas: accounting of units, design of mechanisms that issue units, and consistent tracking and reporting on units. While international agreement on principles for accounting and mechanism design is crucial to preventing double counting, the governance arrangements for implementation and international oversight could vary. This article discusses options and makes recommendations for rules to address double counting in two distinct periods: through 2020 and post-2020 under a potential new international climate regime.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For simplicity, we do not reflect other reduction obligations, such as mandatory cancellations to address non-permanence of to compensate for excess issuance of units.

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Acknowledgments

This article was prepared in the context of a larger research project on accounting issues related to market mechanisms which was funded by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. Any views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Swiss government or any other organization. The research team bears sole responsibility for the content. We would like to thank Laurence Mortier (Switzerland), Gregory Briner and Christina Hood (OECD), Jerry Seager (Verified Carbon Standard), Abhishek Goyal and Lisa Rosen (The Gold Standard Foundation), Derik Broekhoff (Climate Action Reserve), and the UNFCCC Secretariat for helpful comments provided in the context of the larger research project.

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Correspondence to Lambert Schneider.

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Schneider, L., Kollmuss, A. & Lazarus, M. Addressing the risk of double counting emission reductions under the UNFCCC. Climatic Change 131, 473–486 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1398-y

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Keywords

  • Emission Reduction
  • Clean Development Mechanism
  • Double Counting
  • Emission Trade Scheme
  • International Civil Aviation Organization