The Common Time Frame has landed!

But the Ambition Cycle is still in need of completion

At the arrival gate in Glasgow. Photo credit: Kiara Worth/UNFCCC

In December last year, following the Technical Climate Dialogue on Common Time Frames convened by the Chair of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), an OCP blog announced:  ‘Ambition Cycle on course to land in Glasgow’ and I’m pleased to be able to confirm that (at least part of) it has landed.

The Glasgow CTF Decision

I have had the honour of being part of a group of stakeholders that has been working tirelessly and doggedly over the past seven years to bring about this outcome, even though the odds were 4:1 stacked against us: We were advocating 5-yearly synchronised NDC end-years – para. 1 of the Glasgow Ambition Cycle (GAC.1), see Box – while almost 80 percent of the first NDCs communicated by 2020 had a 10-year time frame (ending in 2030).

It is difficult to say when the balance tipped towards the five-year frequency of NDC end-years but it was an uphill struggle – clearly the preference expressed by the EU Environment Council at the beginning of October “for a common time frame of five years for all Parties’ NDCs ” did accelerate the acceptance of the five-year frequency.

Having dwelled over and over on why this particular common time frame is absolutely key in completing the Paris Ambition Mechanism  – see, for example, Müller and Kumarsingh (2020) or Müller (2021c) – I do not wish to go into any details but simply stress that the Glasgow CTF decision is a significant step towards a fully functioning and ambition facilitating rule book of the Paris Agreement.

COP 26 Mural by Cécile Girardin

However, there is still something missing. The Glasgow CTF decision corresponds to GAC.1, but it does not include the request for regular (5-yearly) synchronised ambition updating, referred to GAC.2.

As Matt McGrath, BBC environment correspondent commented in his initial analysis of the  draft Glasgow cover decision: The document may be just seven pages long but it attempts to steer COP26 towards a series of significant steps that will prevent global temperature rises going above 1.5C this century. Perhaps the most important part of that is getting countries to improve their carbon cutting plans. To that end this draft decision urges parties to “revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their nationally-determined contributions, as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022”

Revisiting and strengthening the ambition of NDCs that have been communicated earlier is indeed key to harnessing much needed additional overall ambition; but to maximise the additional ambition, the process needs a time table for regular (5-yearly) synchronised updating, as stipulated in GAC.2

What to do? Fortunately, GAC.2 can easily be interpreted as the sort of guidance referred to in Art. 4.11: “A Party may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition, in accordance with guidance adopted by the [CMA]”.

So, let’s all try and land this guidance in Sharm el Sheik at COP 27 next year!


The long journey: October 2014 to November 2021

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