OECD/IEA Climate Change Expert Group Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected papers on climate change issues that have been prepared for the OECD/IEA Climate Change Expert Group (CCXG). The CCXG (formerly called the Annex I Expert Group) is a group of government delegates from OECD and other industrialised countries. The aim of the group is to promote dialogue and enhance understanding on technical issues in the international climate change negotiations. CCXG papers are developed in consultation with experts from a wide range of developed and developing countries, including those participating in CCXG Global Forums.

The full papers are generally available only in English.

The opinions expressed in these papers are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OECD, the IEA or their member countries, or the endorsement of any approach described therein.


Tracking and Trading: Expanding on Options for International Greenhouse Gas Unit Accounting after 2012

The use of tradable greenhouse gas (GHG) units to meet emissions reduction goals is likely to continue after 2012 as many countries have expressed support for using market mechanisms to promote and enhance the cost-effectiveness of mitigation. Most such mechanisms would use tradable GHG units but it is not yet clear how such units will be accounted for and recognised as contributions toward national pledges or targets.

This paper examines the systems and processes that may be required to achieve effective use of tradable GHG units by first considering what international framework would be required to provide a reliable, functional platform for use of tradable GHG units. One effective system would be for national emissions to be reported using common inventory accounting rules, with subsequent additions and deductions according to net flows of tradable units. The paper then analyses more detailed options for two core aspects of GHG unit accounting: governance of international crediting mechanisms and systems for tracking international unit transactions.

For crediting mechanisms, three options are presented for deciding which units may be eligible to count towards national emissions targets: i) only units issued from a centralised mechanism regulated by the UNFCCC would be eligible, ii) units issued from country-led systems would be eligible provided that they are verified to meet internationally-agreed eligibility criteria and iii) a transparency approach whereby all units would be accepted provided that countries meet minimum disclosure requirements. For unit tracking systems, three further options are presented: i) a continuation of the existing International Transaction Log (ITL) that performs both technical and policy-related checks, ii) a ITL or similar tool that performs only technical compatibility checks, and iii) a decentralised system with no central hub. Accounting issues related to domestic emissions trading system units are also explored, notably in cases where such units are traded internationally. The paper concludes that only certain combinations of the various options presented would lead to a viable system that is both practical and provides sufficient assurance of the environmental integrity of units.


Keywords: unit tracking, emissions reduction goal, greenhouse gas units, climate change, crediting mechanism, market mechanisms
JEL: Q58: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Environmental Economics: Government Policy; Q56: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth; Q54: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Climate; Natural Disasters and Their Management; Global Warming; F53: International Economics / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy / International Agreements and Observance; International Organizations
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