'Peer review' offers new path for climate monitoring

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A peer review system, which has been well operated in international trade and human rights agenda, can serve as a workable mechanism for the controversial climate monitoring and reporting processes, Mexico's climate chief told Xinhua Tuesday.

Luis Alfonso de Alba, Mexico's climate change ambassador, said his country, the host of this year's UN ministerial-level climate summit in Cancun, hoped to put the idea of "peer review" under discussion, as countries are deeply divided on how to monitor and measure developing countries' emissions-cut efforts.

"The peer review system has been proved to be useful in UN's human rights council," de Alba said, who chaired the council from 2006 to 2007 and introduced the very monitoring framework. "It is a mechanism that makes dialogue between countries, rather than an international supervision or police."

"We are discussing the idea of peer review, which is based on several successful examples, such as the similar mechanism in the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)," he told Xinhua after a side event of UN climate talks in Bonn, the second round this year, scheduled from May 31 to June 11.

"From my own experiences, to establish a peer review process would not be so difficult, as we all know, human rights issues are also very sensitive topics for countries," he said. "It (the review system) is a dialogue in which we learn from each other and identify fields for cooperation, and many countries can get assistance from international institutions."

The peer review system, which generally refers to a process of evaluation or inspection on certain past events by qualified professionals, is well welcomed by all sides in the UN human rights body, which includes major developed and developing countries, de Alba added.

In the UN human rights council, countries are asked to present reports on their performance and progress, and three countries will then be picked at random to review the reports before a public debate involving all members.

Some rich countries are asking developing countries to meet the standards of MRV (Measurable, Reportable and Verifiable) in their emissions-cut efforts, and receive international recheck and analysis every two years. Developing nations, however, rebuff these demands, saying developed countries should follow their commitment in the Kyoto Protocol first, which includes climate financing, technology transfer and reporting.

De Alba believed that as the current MRV method faces so many disputes, the peer review system may be workable for both sides: to meet rich nations' demands for better review while letting developing nations feel their domestic affairs not aggressively interfered.

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