Success for Amber Rudd would see a system of five-yearly reviews, similar to those delivered through the UK Climate Change Act, included in Paris Agreement
Ahead of the release later this evening of the latest version of the negotiating text, it is emerging that five yearly reviews of national climate action plans is one of the central demands from the UK and a number of its allies at the Paris climate talks.
It is understood delivering a system of five year reviews through an eventual deal is a top priority for the UK, with Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd said to be pushing for an agreement that includes a requirement for all 196 countries to review their national action plans every five years from 2018/19.
The European Union is also arguing setting a post-2050 goal is relatively easy compared to demonstrating you are on track to meet it on a regular basis. Crucially, the bloc wants the reviews to start in 2018/19, before the Paris Agreement starts in 2020. They argue delaying the first review until after the mid-2020s could allow some countries to delay efforts to curb emissions.
The UK has experience when it comes to managing a system of five year emissions reviews. Observers argue the regular delivery of new carbon budgets is what give the Act's long term goal of cutting emissions 80 per cent by 2050 its weight and should ensure climate policies are delivered and strengthened from parliament to parliament.
The most recent review shows the UK is set to miss its fourth carbon budget for the mid 2020s, and the government is now under intense pressure to set out how it will deliver on the fourth carbon budget and meet its fifth carbon budget for the early 2030s. Green campaign groups claim that without the five year review mechanism Chancellor George Osborne would find it easier to delay climate policies and slow the pace of UK emissions reductions.
European Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete also underlined the crucial importance of five year reviews to the Paris Agreement, telling reporters that "without the five-year cycles, the agreement is meaningless".
"If we want a long-term target we must take stock every now and then - we think every five years is a reasonable period - to assess, how far are we from the trajectory the IPCC has established as necessary," he said.
But five-yearly reviews remain a highly sensitive condition for China, India, and some other emerging economies, which argue they have already set out national climate plans through to 2030 and lack the capacity needed to review and strengthen them as early as 2018.
The current text recognises these concerns and only "invites" parties to review their targets before 2020. But the UK and others want to see the text strengthened to require that countries "shall" undertake five-year reviews.
Supporters of the five year review proposal maintain it would not impinge upon other countries sovereignty as nations would face no obligation to upgrade their action plans at each review and would not be "named and shamed" if they simply opt to retain their current plans.
Attention is now turning to how five year reviews will be incorporated through the next version of the negotiating text, which is expected around 7pm this evening.
Canete is optimistic the Chinese will eventually support EU's push for a review system, highlighting that the superpower already agreed to five-year cycles in its bilateral agreement with the French earlier this year.
"I think the Chinese people are very serious and will honour the commitments and will stick to the five-year cycles because they have stated that in the China-France declaration and I am sure in the final days of the negotiations they will be on board for the five-year cycles," he said.
Ministers worked until at least 4am this morning and will be negotiating through tonight, as they struggle to meet the tough timetables set out by the French presidency.
The UK is expected to push for a strong commitment to five year reviews, citing the experience of its own Climate Change Act as an effective mechanism for delivering steady emission reductions. In some respects, the extent to which the talks are regarded as a success or failure by those pushing for an ambitious deal will rest on the fate of the five year reviews, not to mention the UK delegation's powers of persuasion.
This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.