Efforts undertaken cooperatively between countries or entities within them to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions -- called joint implementation -- hold significant potential for combating the threat of global warming and promoting sustainable development. Joint implementation is recognized under the Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Climate Convention) and is an approach open to all Parties to the Convention.

Joint implementation could potentially achieve greater emission reductions than might be possible if each country pursued only domestic actions, and could achieve these reductions more cost-effectively. Joint implementation may also spur technology cooperation -- increasing developing countries' access to energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies while stimulating export markets for industrialized countries. At the same time, significant questions arise about what kinds of activities might take place under the rubric of joint implementation: whether these would produce real reductions; whether they would be "new and additional" to ongoing development assistance or private business transactions; how to measure and track net emission reductions achieved; how to assure that reductions in one place do not give rise to increases in another; and how to assure that net reductions will not be lost or reversed through time.

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, the body that negotiated the terms of the Climate Convention, took up the issue of joint implementation for the first time during its Eighth Session in August 1993. The Climate Convention calls upon the Conference of the Parties to adopt international criteria for joint implementation at its first session, tentatively scheduled for late March 1995. International efforts to develop criteria for joint implementation will clearly benefit from real world experience. At the same time, a number of U.S. firms, especially electric utilities considering voluntary emission reduction commitments, have indicated their interest in international projects.

Joint Implementation Strategy

The Climate Change Action Plan will achieve the goal of returning U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 with domestic actions alone. However, the Administration recognizes the enormous potential for cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions in other countries, and the promise of joint implementation can only be realized if pilot projects are evaluated under workable criteria that avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. The Administration is therefore announcing a pilot program -- the U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation (USIJI). The primary purpose of the U.S. initiative is to help establish an empirical basis for considering approaches to joint implementation internationally and thus help realize the enormous potential for joint implementation both to combat the threat of global warming and to promote sustainable development.