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UNECE engages statisticians to measure progress ahead of COP21

“The Paris climate conference, COP21, seeks to deliver a clear pathway to meet the climate challenge and a system to help us measure and increase progress until we get the job done”, says Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). UNECE works with Chief Statisticians of more than 60 countries to provide the best possible data to measure progress towards the objectives of the Climate Change Convention.

Countries have well-defined reporting requirements under the UNFCCC and, depending on the outcome of the COP21, new data needs may arise. Currently countries need to communicate their greenhouse gas emission inventories and report, for example, on the following: their national circumstances and vulnerabilities related to climate change, measures taken to mitigate climate change and adapt to it, provided or required financial resources and relevant technology transfer needs, and climate-related education, training and public awareness raising. This reporting requires comprehensive, versatile and accurate data – making official statistics indispensable for climate-related reporting.

When it comes to measuring, statisticians are ready to provide their knowledge and data. Complementing its earlier initiatives, in September 2015, UNECE organized, an Expert Forum to discuss how to develop official statistics for the reporting under the Climate Change Convention. The meeting brought together statisticians, experts from environment agencies and ministries, meteorologists, disaster risk analysts, researchers and international organizations, including the UNFCCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The experts did not start their discussion from scratch, because important work has already been done, namely the UNECE Recommendations on Climate Change-Related Statistics, released in 2014. These Recommendations are the first ever tool for improving official statistics for climate change analyses. The meeting discussed how to implement the Recommendations to provide a strong backstopping to the climate-related reporting through better use of authoritative and high quality official statistics.

At this meeting, UNFCCC and IPCC, among others, underlined the significant role of official statistics in climate reporting at least due to 2 main reasons:

  • Socio-economic data are essential for producing mitigation progress indicators and useful for setting quantitative adaptation goals and monitoring their achievement. Various official statistics are needed for all sectors of the economy to support the preparation of national emission inventories, starting with the most common statistics such as GDP, exchange and interest rates, population statistics, energy statistics, number of dwellings, commercial floor space, vehicle kilometres and use of new technologies are needed to support climate action.
  • Producing greenhouse gas emission inventories is still challenging for many countries. Inventory agencies may lack the suitable legal framework and have a weak mandate for collecting data from emitters. Key to overcoming these barriers is close collaboration between inventory compilers and national statistical offices; quite often, the data needed for inventory compilation are commonly used for other national statistics and may already be available in the statistical system. National statistical offices also have a strong legal framework for data collection and can offer their knowledge and competence for improving the quality of climate reporting.

The statistical community is carefully monitoring the COP21 negotiations to react quickly to the evolving and emerging data needs for the reporting under the UNFCCC. Now UNECE leads their work to develop:

For more information please visit: www.unece.org/stats/climate