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lead.jpg (22302 bytes)    Volume 3 
   Number 4
   26 October 1998 

Robert K. Dixon, Ph. D.
Director, U.S. Country Studies Program


Global climate change may be the most critical and complex environmental issue facing humanity over the next century. The 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment concluded that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have increased by 30 to 145% over the last century due to human activities and are likely to continue rising in the future (Houghton et al. 1996). Average global temperatures have increased by 0.3 to 0.6ºC since the late 19th century, and this increase can be partially attributed to the increase in GHG concentrations. Global temperatures are likely to rise by 1 to 3.5ºC by the year 2100. The IPCC estimates that mean sea level will rise by 15 to 95cm by 2100, which could threaten low-lying areas and coastal wetlands and mangroves (Watson et al. 1996). The change in average temperatures is likely to be accompanied by changes in precipitation and storm patterns and alteration in drought frequency and intensity. These changes in global climate could significantly affect agricultural production, water supplies, human health, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in developed and developing countries (Dixon 1997b).

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), promulgated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, commits most nations of the world to deal with this problem by limiting emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and addressing appropriate responses to mitigate or adapt to global climate change (United Nations 1992). Global cooperation of developed, developing countries and countries with economies in transition (transition countries) is needed to effectively control GHG emissions. The US, China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil are among the world's leading producers of GHGs (Watson et al. 1996).

The UNFCCC requires all signatory countries to communicate a national inventory of GHG emissions by sources and sinks (United Nations 1992). Moreover, each country is eventually required to describe the steps and actions it will take to implement the principles and goals of the UNFCCC, especially mitigation and adaptation measures. Virtually all of the developed countries have submitted this documentation, termed national communications, to the UNFCCC. Many developing and transition countries are preparing climate change action plans that will identify mitigation and adaptation measures that may set the foundation for their national communications. Countries are developing these plans not only to meet their UNFCCC obligations, but also because they wish to set priorities for action and integrate climate change concerns into other development plans (Benioff and Warren, 1995).

The Kyoto Protocol has provisions for three flexible greenhouse gas mitigation instruments: the Clean Development Mechanism, joint implementation and emissions trading. The US is generally supportive of these internationally efficient, market-based options to meet emission reduction targets. Securing meaningful participation in the Kyoto Protocol by both developing and developed countries is a core US goal. The emission reduction target of the US is seven percent and the US is implementing a National Climate Change Action Plan. The US also proposes research and development investments worth up to US$ 5 billion over the next five years to stimulate market-based, cost effective GHG emissions reductions (Clinton and Gore 1997).

Article 4 of the UNFCCC calls upon developed countries to provide technical and financial assistance to developing countries to aid them in meeting the requirements of the Convention, including reporting requirements (United Nations 1992). The US, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment (UNEP) have all been active in providing technical and financial support to developing and transition countries to help meet their requirements under the UNFCCC (Anonymous 1996). The purpose of this paper is to describe Studies Program and the US Initiative of Joint Implementation. Both of these programs support the principles and objectives of the UNFCCC.

The US Countries Studies Program

The US Countries Studies Program (USCSP) was created by the US Government in 1992 to provide technical and financial assistance to developing and transition countries for studies that address climate change (Dixon 1997a). A cooperative program of 10 US government agencies (Department of State, Energy, Commerce, Defense, Agriculture, Interior, the Environment Protection Agency, Agency for International Development, Smithsonian Institution and NASA), the USCSP is assisting 56 developing and transition countries with studies, analyses and assessments that help them meet their information needs and commitments under the UNFCCC. The US provides both financial (grants) and technical assistance (training and analytical tools) to developing and transition countries under this program. The studies implemented and conducted by host country governments. The primary objectives of the USCSP are to:

  • Enhance the abilities of countries and regions to inventory their GHG emissions, assess their vulnerabilities to climate change, and evaluate strategies for mitigating emissions and adapting to the potential impacts of climate change;
  • Enable countries to establish a process for developing and implementing policies and measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and for reexamining these policies and measures periodically; and,
  • Develop information that can be used to further regional, national and international discussions of climate change issues and increase support for the UNFCCC.

At the end of 1997, most of the 56 countries in the USCSP have completed their GHG emission inventories, vulnerability and adaptation assessments, and have identified mitigation options in national reports. The USCSP has published several methodology handbooks (vulnerability and mitigation assessment techniques) and several major synthesis reports to document the results of the studies (Dixon 1997b). The USCSP has also co-sponsored more than 30 technical workshops to help share transparent and comparable methods and results and trained over 2,000 analysts in 70 countries.

The USCSP is coordinated with Global Environment Facility (GEF), IPCC, the Subsidiary Bodies to the FCCC, and other international organizations. The USCSP has worked closely with other donors, especially Japan, in implementing all country study activities (e.g., UNDP, UNEP, GEF and individual member of countries of the OECD).

In 1995, at the First UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, the USCSP launched "Support for National Action Plans" (SNAP). SNAP activities assist 18 countries in using the results of the climate change country studies to develop action plans and technology assessments. Developing and transition countries participating in SNAP include: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Micronesia, Philippines, Russia, Tanzania, Thailand, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela. The specific objectives of SNAP are:

  • Help countries prepare action plans to describe specific policies an programs that will be implemented to reduce GHG emissions, preserve or enhance GHGs sinks, and adapt to the potential impacts of climate change;
  • Promote diffusion of mitigation and adaptation technologies by assisting countries with both needs assessments and opportunities for technology transfers; and,
  • Enhance support for the objectives and principles of the UNFCCC

SNAP provides several types of assistance including: financial support in the form of grants for preparing climate change action plans and conducting technology assessments; guidance from international experts through training, site visits and consultations; handbooks and analytical tools for preparing plans and evaluating and developing program and policy alternatives; technical workshops to discuss plan preparation steps as well as methods for evaluating measures and disseminating results (Benioff and Warren 1995). Visiting analysts from developing and transition countries can come to Washington, DC, for 3-6 months of training to become familiar with the US climate change community.

The US Initiative on Joint Implementation

The US Initiative on Joint Implementation (USIJI) supports the development and implementation of voluntary projects between US and Non-US partners to mitigate GHG emissions and promote sustainable development in support of the UNFCCC Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) pilot phase (Dixon 1997a). The UNFCCC AIJ pilot phase, initiated in 1995 by the First Conference of the Parties, is considered an experimental program with over 70 countries worldwide participating.

Joint Implementation is an efficient, cost-effective tool offering flexibility to mitigate GHG emissions and engage developing countries. Projects implemented jointly offer the potential the potential to achieve greater emissions reductions than would be likely if each country pursued only domestic actions (Clinton and Gore 1997). By supporting cooperative efforts between countries to reduce, avoid or sequester net GHG emissions, USIJI increases access to energy efficient, renewable energy, and other environmental technologies and facilitates the stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of GHGs (Dixon 1997a). The goals of USIJI include:

  • Encourage the rapid development and implementation of voluntary, cost-effective projects between US and non-US partners aimed at reducing or sequestering GHG emissions;
  • Promote technology cooperation with and sustainable development in developing and transition countries;
  • Test and evaluate methods to measure, track and verify emissions reductions costs and benefits;
  • Establish an empirical base for formulation of international criteria for joint implementation;
  • Encourage private sector investment and innovation in developing and disseminating technologies to reduce or sequester GHG emissions;
  • Encourage participating countries to adopt more complete climate action programs.

USIJI is the first and currently most developed joint implementation pilot program worldwide. Historically, USIJI has provided technical assistance, proposal evaluation and outreach services, and information resources. It is an interagency governmental effort similar to USCSP. The program is directed by an Interagency Working Group that is chaired by the US Department of State. The USIJI Panel is co-chaired by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Projects accepted into the USIJI program are evaluated against the nine criteria and four other areas of consideration included in the USIJI operating rules. The criteria are used to identify those projects that support the development goals of the host country while providing GHG benefits beyond those that would occur in the absence of the joint implementation activity. The criteria have been formulated to ensure that projects accepted into the program will produce real, measurable net emissions reductions. Net emissions reductions achieved as a result of USIJI projects will be measured, monitored, verified and reported.

To date, USIJI partnership efforts address GHG reductions through a wide variety of technologies and practices, including wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and solar energy; coal to natural gas fuel switching; methane gas capture; and sustainable forest management and preservation (Dixon 1997a). The USIJI portfolio includes 32 accepted projects with projected GHG benefits of over 190 million metric tons of CO2 sequestered or avoided. Eleven of the projects are fully financed, and another 16 projects have financed part of the expected costs. In addition to reviewing projects, the USIJI Secretariat transmits transparent and complete reports on program progress to the UNFCCC Secretariat, and continues to improve baselines, monitoring, verification and reporting procedures in support of the methodological work of the UNFCCC Secretariat. The US has prepared and submitted USIJI activity reports to the Second and Third UNFCCC Conference of the Parties. A similar report is being prepared by the Fourth Conference of the Parties, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


The US supports the principles and objectives of the UNFCCC (Clinton and Gore 1997). Since the 1992 Earth Summit, the US has worked cooperatively with developed and developing countries to help advance the international discussions leading to the Kyoto Protocol. The US recently announced a five-year, US$ 25 million Interagency Climate Change Program (ICCP) that will continue to work with developing and transition countries to meet their obligations under the FCCC and Kyoto Protocol.

For more information contact:

US Country Studies Program
US Initiative on Joint Implementation
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585
Fax: +1 (202) 586-3485


This manuscript has not been subject to technical or policy review by the US government and does not represent the views of any government or intergovernmental body.


Anonymous. 1996. Proceedings of the Sixth Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change: Responding to the Vulnerability in Asia and the Pacific. Environment Agency, Tokyo, Japan, 309p.

Benioff, R. and Warren, J. 1995. Steps in Preparing Climate Change Action Plans: A Handbook. US Country Studies Program, Washington, DC, USA, 200p.

Clinton, W.J. and Gore, A.C. 1997. Climate Action Report: Submission of the USA under the UNFCCC. Department of State, Washington, DC, USA 256p.+appendices.

Dixon, R.K. 1997a. The US Initiative on Joint Implementation. International Journal of Environment and Pollution. 8: 1-17.

Dixon: R.K. (ed.) 1997b. Climate Change Impacts and Response Options in Eastern and Central Europe. Climatic Change 36: 1-232.

Dixon, R.K., Sathaye, J.A., Meyers, S.P. Masera, O. Makarov, A.A., Toure, S. Makundi, W. and Weil, S. 1996. Greenhouse gas mitigation strategies: preliminary results of the US Country Studies Program. Ambio 25: 26-32.