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Highlights

Nations that are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change periodically submit inventories estimating their greenhouse gas emissions. The Convention Secretariat runs a review process to evaluate inventories from 41 "Annex I" nations, which are mostly economically developed nations. The 153 "non-Annex I" nations are generally less economically developed and have less stringent inventory reporting guidelines. The Department of State (State) represents the United States in international climate change negotiations. GAO was asked to report on (1) what is known about the comparability and quality of inventories and barriers, if any, to improvement; (2) what is known about the strengths and limits of the inventory review process; and (3) views of experts on implications for current and future international agreements to reduce emissions. GAO analyzed inventory reviews and inventories from the seven highest-emitting Annex I nations and seven of the highest emitting non-Annex I nations. GAO also selected and interviewed experts.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State Recognizing the importance of high quality and comparable data on emissions from Annex I and non-Annex I Parties to the Convention in developing and monitoring international climate change agreements, the Secretary of State should continue to work with other Parties to the Convention in international negotiations to encourage non-Annex I Parties, especially high-emitting nations, to enhance their inventories, including by reporting in a more timely, comprehensive, and comparable manner, and possibly establishing a process for reviewing their inventories.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

Following our report and consistent with our recommendation, State department officials worked with their counterparts in international negotiations to enhance inventories from non-Annex I Parties. In 2011, at the seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa, Parties agreed on several issues to improve inventories. Specifically, Parties decided that non-Annex I Parties shall submit biennial inventories, adopted new guidelines for these inventories, and established a process for international consultation and analysis of submissions.
Department of State To provide greater assurance that the review process has an adequate supply of reviewers and provides consistent reviews, the Secretary of State, as the U.S. representative to the Framework Convention, should work with other Parties to the Convention to explore strengthening the quality assurance framework for the inventory review process. A stronger framework could include, for example, having an independent reviewer periodically assess the consistency of inventory reviews and whether the Secretariat has sufficient resources and inventory reviewers to maintain its ability to perform high quality inventory reviews.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

Following our report and consistent with our recommendation, State department officials worked with their counterparts to explore various ways to strengthen the quality assurance framework for the inventory review process. This has resulted in several improvements in the review process, including new software tools for inventory review teams and, beginning in June 2012, additional training for expert reviewers on complex models and higher-tier methods. In addition, annual meetings of lead expert reviewers have addressed consistency of inventory reviews and the availability of resources and reviewers.

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