Notes from an Iceberg

Blog Entry for Climate Change Website
  • {{""|translate}} Susan Legro
  • {{"article.posted"|translate}} 20-03-2018

Notes from an Iceberg

Blog Entry for Climate Change Website

Macedonia’s Second Biennial Update Report (SBUR) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will soon be submitted to the Convention. Coming in at over 100 pages of text and nearly 100 pages in annexes, the SBUR looks imposing. However, it’s only the tip of the iceberg (Figure 1). As the Compiling Editor for the SBUR, I’ve seen the whole iceberg. UNDP has asked me to share some of my impressions, so let’s take a tour.

The Tip of the Iceberg

The official report, which is the tip of the iceberg, contains a huge amount of information. It must conform to guidance from various decisions of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) that specify how often the reports should be submitted (every two years) to what topics they must cover (an inventory of greenhouse gases, steps taken to address climate change, and constraints and gaps and resources received for climate actions). The inventory is itself shaped by IPCC guidelines on how to report on greenhouse gas emissions and sinks, and the extensive annexes allow the UNFCCC to look closely at these calculations.

Within these sections, though, countries may choose to do special analysis or find a new way of looking at the data they present. This SBUR, for example, estimates the number of green jobs that may be created under Macedonia’s action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Estimated Number of Domestic Green Jobs Created by Measure (Source: SBUR 2017)

In addition, there is room to report on additional topics on top of requirements. This SBUR has a special section on climate change and innovation in Macedonia, and it also looks at climate change research and research gaps in a more in-depth way than many BURs.

Because the SBUR contains so much formal language and text that must be included (such as reporting on how findings from a technical review of the previous BUR were addressed, the SBUR project team has produced a public summary, called “Your Guide to the SBUR.” This guide explains how reporting to the UNFCCC works, and it translates the SBUR from “UN-ese” (ОНски) into everyday language. You can see the result here [link].

The Underlying Research

As comprehensive as the SBUR is, it represents only a small segment of the research and analysis that have been carried out during the preparation process. Hundreds of pages of background reports in the key areas (inventories; mitigation; constraints and gaps and resources received; monitoring reporting and verification, or MRV; and others).

Trimming these reports for the SBUR can be very difficult, as many of the findings are significant for Macedonia, even some that do not make it into the report and stay “under water.” One example is the energy sector analysis that is behind the modeling in the SBUR chapter on mitigation. While SBUR presents the modeling results, the background report explores the implications of these findings for the energy sector. Figure 3 illustrates some of this research – the implications of the different mitigation scenarios on energy dependence. As the chart indicates, Macedonia can lower its energy dependence on other countries through 2032 by adopting planned mitigation actions (the green dotted line) or through planned mitigation measures plus additional measures (the red dotted line).

Figure 3: Looking “under the surface” – energy dependence under different mitigation scenarios (source: SBUR Climate Change Mitigation Report, 2017: 106-7). “Macedonia WEM” consists of planned mitigation measures (the Safe Way scenario), and “Macedonia WAM” (the Climate Champion scenario) consists of the Safe Way measures plus additional measures.

Not to worry: even when this kind of information doesn’t appear in the SBUR, it isn’t ignored: different stakeholders use it to prioritize activities and spending, to provide additional information to the Government and the public about various sectors of the economy, and to support requests for climate financing.

If you want to take a “deep dive” into any particular section that appears in the SBUR, you can review all of the background reports in the Documents section of the national Climate Change Website.

The Contributors

All of the findings in the report are the work of many different people and organizations. First, experts who conducted the research and drafted the background reports come from ministries, the Academy of Sciences, academia, international organizations, and NGOs. In addition, the National Committee on Climate Change, which has representatives from across the government and from civil society, provided input on the direction of the report.

Finally, the report cites many different programs to address climate change that have been undertaken in the past three years in Macedonia. For example, groups as diverse as municipal officials and farmers have participated in training on climate change issues. A number of researchers have published findings related to climate change. The tech community has joined Climate Change Challenges (Figure 4). Even the general public has been involved through a survey on opinions regarding climate change. Without all of these groups, the report would be less diverse and representative.

Figure 4: Team ReBot, Winners of the 2016 Climate Change Challenge (photo credit: UNDP)

The SBUR Process – The Stabilizing Base

Underneath all of the people and data lies the SBUR process. The process, which includes the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning as an implementing partner, has several advantages. First, it supports quality control: the participants document and archives all of their work so that it will be available for subsequent reports. Each section of the SBUR provides specific recommendations for improvement that must be considered for future reports.

Second, the process supports good communication and outreach: the regular meetings of the team and the National Climate Change Committee ensure that the issues raised while the report is compiled can find their way back to policy-makers in the relevant sectors. These links between data and decision-makers mean that the findings in the SBUR don’t stay “on ice.”

There are plans to move this process into the government in order to make the data collection and analysis ongoing, rather than being limited to months leading up to the publication of the BUR. This transition will bring even greater benefits in terms of quality control, communication, and data for policy-making.

That’s the iceberg.  My advice: keep exploring, there’s a lot to see!

Susan Legro

Susan Legro is a senior consultant on climate change and has worked on projects that address climate change for more than two decades. She has edited several National Communications and funding requests for climate change reporting in Europe and Eurasia.



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