On May 24, Kath Rowley and I presented CPI’s work on countries’ efforts to track emissions and mitigation actions to an international audience. Our event took place on the sidelines of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bonn, Germany.

After sitting in on some of the negotiations, Kath and I were struck by the disconnect between the discussions at the negotiating table and the real world of policy implementation. Measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) is a contentious issue in climate negotiations; the discussions might lead you to believe that “MRV” is a burdensome requirement and rarely done now. In fact, as our work demonstrates, countries are already doing a great deal to track emissions and mitigation actions, for both international and domestic purposes.

In a set of new reports, CPI helps shed light on MRV practices in four countries: China, Germany, Italy, and the United States. Our study examines the processes and institutions these countries use to track their greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of their climate policies, and assesses how effectively these systems are helping countries track progress toward their climate goals. Some key findings we drew from this analysis are:

  • Countries have a wide range of MRV systems that are helping them achieve their mitigation goals. These include systems established for international purposes as well as purely domestic ones. Some systems are established specifically for climate purposes, while others are more general government oversight mechanisms.
  • There is no bright line between international and domestic MRV; international systems and requirements can and do support effective national MRV. For example, international guidelines for greenhouse gas inventory preparation help countries develop reliable greenhouse gas inventories that they use to track progress toward their domestic climate goals.
  • In general, national systems to track emissions are currently more effective than systems to track mitigation actions. Tracking the impact of mitigation actions is difficult; it requires determining what would have happened in the absence of a policy, which is an inherently uncertain question. Because mitigation actions are so diverse (including policies such as funding research on renewable energy technologies, providing incentives to reduce deforestation, and setting vehicle fuel economy standards), it is particularly difficult to compare policies to each other to determine which are most effective. Progress on comprehensively tracking mitigation actions would be very useful to policymakers who must decide how to allocate limited public resources.

Outside the negotiating room, there’s nothing too controversial or mysterious about MRV. All countries benefit from having effective systems in place to measure their emissions and track what their policies are accomplishing. And countries can learn from each other’s experience—for example, through the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV, which provides a forum for countries to share knowledge and good practices in MRV. Our report highlights some of these good practices, noting examples of tracking systems that are working particularly well to help countries meet their climate policy goals, as well as areas where gaps still remain.