Addressing the risk of double counting emission reductions under the UNFCCC



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Avoiding double counting of mitigation efforts is an important issue discussed among Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). If emission reductions are double counted, actual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be higher than the sum of what individual countries report. As a result, countries could appear to meet established mitigation pledges, while total emissions exceed these levels. Double counting of emission reductions would also make mitigation efforts less comparable and could discourage the use of market-based approaches to mitigate climate change.

This paper, one in a series of three papers on the interactions between international carbon markets and mitigation pledges, systematically assesses how double counting could occur and how it could be addressed. It builds on the experiences and lessons learned from existing carbon market schemes, available literature, as well as submissions by Parties and stakeholders to the UNFCCC. The paper does not address other issues related to the environmental integrity of market-based (and non-market-based) mechanisms, such as ensuring that units represent “real, permanent, additional and verified mitigation outcomes”. Furthermore, the paper focuses on the role of UNFCCC in addressing double counting; we do not consider in detail options to address double counting with mitigation pledges or claims at sub-national levels (e.g. companies, cities, individuals). The paper also focuses on economy-wide and sectoral mitigation pledges expressed in GHG emissions (or GHG emission intensities), not on potential double counting from mitigation pledges covering specific activities and expressed in other metrics, such as renewable energy or energy efficiency targets.


Lambert Schneider
Anja Kollmuss
Michael Lazarus


Stockholm Environment Institute, Working Paper 2014-02