On Climate Change Targets, Indicators and Data in Post-2015 Agenda

The post-2015 development agenda is taking shape.

As expected, climate change takes a preponderant place on the blueprint designed to end poverty in all its forms everywhere in the period (2015-2030) and also ensure the overarching goal of sustainable development is achieved.

In the current iteration of the plan, climate change is positioned number 13 (Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and Its Impacts) out of a total of 17 goals and an additional 169 targets.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the draft last week with less fanfare compared to global protest marches in favor of action for climate change or the ongoing Heads of State Summit in New York designed to secure further national commitments and maintain the momentum needed to vault the world towards an anticipated ‘universal and legal’ climate change agreement in Paris next year.

For those who have long advocated for policy making of this magnitude to be guided purely by scientific evidence such as the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this is welcome news. In addition, it is also a welcome development for long time critics of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) who argued that it did not place a strong emphasis on climate change.

With the work of the Open Working Group (OWG) mandated by the United Nations to lead the elaboration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) having passed the first procedural hurdle, attention now shifts to a year of debate to further find tune the SDGs. The final form and shape of the agenda will not be known until September 2015 when the UN will convene a special summit to have them adopted.

Climate Change Targets

Five key targets have been identified under the climate change goal as follows:

  1. Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
  2. Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
  3. Improve education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning
  4. Implement the commitment undertaken by developed country Parties to the UNFCCC to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible
  5. Promote mechanisms for raising capacities for effective climate change related planning and management, in LDCs, including focusing on women, youth, local and marginalized communities

Devil in the Details (Indicators and Data)

Setting the goals and accompanying targets is just one side of the challenge - and the international community seems close to achieving this. Another and perhaps equally important part is setting specific, measurable, and achievable targets or what is commonly referred to as SMART indicators.

The Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities, meeting in Rome recently (September 11-12 ) set out broad principles under which the indicators for the SDGs framework should be discussed and adopted and include the following:

  • Existing and agreed indicators sets, be it from existing monitoring efforts, international agreements, conceptual frameworks, or other efforts, should be considered on priority basis.
  • The five conceptual issues of universality, inclusiveness, scope of the development agenda, inter-linkages and cross-cutting issues, and means vs. ends and focus on meaningful outcomes, as identified in the Compendium of Statistical Notes under Conceptual Issues should be considered.
  • The conceptual basis for the indicator framework should be discussed and elaborated as appropriate.

With principles to guide the elaboration of both broad and individual indicators adopted and a calendar of work agreed upon, considerable time is therefore expected to be spent in the months ahead determining how progress of the SDGs will be tracked. The tracking and reporting system of the MDGs now in its final year will offer considerable lessons to draw from. But even before conclusions are darwn on the potential quantitative and perhaps qualitative indicators and sources of data, experts and interested stakeholders are advancing diverse indicators. 

Specifically with respect to climate change, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, providing expert inputs towards the SDGs has advanced a set of potential indicators to track climate change and its targets.It's proposal thus far look as follows:

  1. On the target to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters in all countries, a suggested indicator include:
  • Economic losses from disasters in rural areas, by climatic and non-climatic events (in US$)
  • On the target to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning, a suggested indicator include:
    • Deployment of a sustainable development strategy for each urban agglomeration above X people
  • On the target to Implement the commitment undertaken by developed country Parties to the UNFCCC to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible, the indicator proposed is as follows:
    • Official climate financing from developed countries that is incremental to Official Development Assistance in United States Dollars.

    Not so much literature is currently avaliable on indicators to measure the third and fifth targets. should you have some information, please feel free to share.

    But with respect to indicators having to deal with decarbonizing the energy system, ensure clean energy for all, and improve energy efficiency, with targets for 2020, 2030, and 2050, many indicators have also been advanced:

    • Share of the population with access to modern cooking solutions, by urban and rural in percentages
    • Share of the population with access to reliable electricity, by urban and rural in percentages
    • Availability and implementation of a transparent and detailed deep decarbonization strategy, consistent with the 2°C – or below – global carbon budget, and with GHG emission targets for 2020, 2030 and 2050
    • Total energy and industry-related GHG emissions by gas and sector, expressed as production and demand-based emissions
    • CO2 intensity of the power sector, and of new power generation capacity installed 
    • CO2 intensity of the transport sector and of new cars and trucks

    At the regional, national and local levels, it is proposed that a whole level of additional indicators be considered to track climate change.

    With respect to sources of data particularly at the global level, the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development - Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC), and International Energy Agency (IEG) are the main agencies projected to lead the process of data collection for these indicators.

    As you can see, this is far from conclusive work. But the debate is alive - many have praised ongoing work while others have strongly criticized it. Please join the debate and let us know your thoughts on potential indicators and data sources to track climate change in the post-2015 development agenda.


    I note that the 5 key targets

    I note that the 5 key targets are also valid at community and local government level.
    Target 1: resilience building and CC adaptation projects
    Target 2: Mainstreaming CC in local development planning
    Target 3: Awareness raising programs at local level
    Target 4: Here I would emphasize the use of local resources for sustainability and even generating employment from adaptation activities
    Target 5: Capacity building of the most vulnerable HHs in the community

    It is interesting to note that all the above are part of PPCR II in the Barotse Sub-basin in Zambia, where I work as a local consultant in CC mainstreaming and identifying interventions that build resilience.

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