The Paris Agreement: A Focus on Transparency

by Leonie Schiedek (COP26 Team)

The following article is on an essential element of good climate governance: transparency. Why is transparency important, how is it implemented in international climate policy and where can you find transparent information on climate change?

What is meant by “transparency”?

In order to achieve the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), all Parties rely on transparent, correct and comprehensible information on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate actions. In turn, they are obliged to communicate all relevant information for the implementation of the UNFCCC to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The transparency and reporting systems are integral to enable COP to understand the different ambitions and progress on Parties’ climate actions. These systems have evolved into measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) frameworks [1]. The requirements and timetables for the submission of the national reports differ between Annex I Parties and non-Annex I Parties, acknowledging that parties have common but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities (CBDRC) [2]. Yet, the ambition is to increase transparency in reporting for all parties.

Transparency in the Paris Agreement 

Article 13 of the Paris Agreement characterises transparency as important “in order to build mutual trust and confidence and to promote effective implementation” recognizing different capacities and flexibility [4]. At COP 23, measures to significantly enhance transparency of action and support under the UNFCCC were adopted as part of the Bali Action Plan, where the transparency mainly referred to MRV [1;5]. An Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) was adopted at COP24, finally providing clear modalities, procedures and guidelines for the transparent implementation of the agreement [3]. In order to drive its implementation, developed countries are advised to provide support, information, technology, and capacity-building to developing countries [4]. 

Initiatives for enhanced transparency

There are different international initiatives that work towards the goals defined in the Paris Agreement. For instance, the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) works with policymakers around the world, offering tools and support to measure and assess the impacts of their climate actions in a transparent and effective way [6]. Another initiative called the capacity-building initiative for transparency (CBIT) “will support developing country Parties, upon request, in meeting enhanced transparency requirements as defined in Article 13 of the Agreement in a timely manner” [7]. The Climate Transparency partnership wants to “stimulate a ‘race to the top’ in climate action in G20 countries through enhanced transparency [8].The Partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and the Danish Technical University (UNEP DTU Partnership) works “to strengthen national institutions and create the foundation for the ETF to build trust and confidence among countries and foster shared understanding, greater accountability and strengthened ambition of climate actions and support” [9]. Despite being a slow process, there are several achievements of these supporting initiatives. For instance, Costa Rica is building up a national system for climate metrics that aims at coordinating and linking climate data to facilitate the management and distribution of climate action information transparently [10].

Apart from these initiatives and partnerships, there are also different websites that provide data about climate actions, for instance, the Climate Action Tracker or Climate Watch. These include open data, visualizations or analysis that are accessible to all, although principally targeted at policymakers, researchers or other stakeholders involved in gathering insights about the progress in climate action.

In sum, transparency is an essential part of climate policy and is not only important on an institutional level, but can also help the general public to gain access to transparent and reliable data about climate change.

Reference List:

[1] UNFCCC (2021). ‘What is transparency and reporting?’. URL: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/transparency-and-reporting/the-big-picture/what-is-transparency-and-reporting [Last accessed: 16.04.2021] 
[2] UNFCCC (2018). ‘Parties’. URL: https://unfccc.int/process/parties-non-party-stakeholders/parties-convention-and-observer-states?field_national_communications_target_id%5B515%5D=515 [Last accessed: 16.04.2021]
[3] UNFCCC (2018). ‘Report of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreementon the third part of its first session, held in Katowice from 2 to 15 December 2018’. URL: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/CMA2018_03a02E.pdf [Last accessed: 16.04.2021] 
[4] United Nations (2015). ‘Paris Agreement’. https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf [Last accessed: 15.04.2021]
[5] Winkler, H., Mantlana, B., & Letete, T. (2017). ‘Transparency of action and support in the Paris Agreement’. Climate Policy, 17(7), 853-872.
[6] ICAT (n.d.). ‘Transparent and effective climate action’.  URL: https://climateactiontransparency.org/ [Last accessed: 15.04.2021]
[7] CBIT (n.d.) ‘About’. URL: https://www.cbitplatform.org/about [Last accessed: 15.04.2021]
[8] Climate Transparency (2019). ‘About’. URL: https://www.climate-transparency.org [Last accessed: 15.04.2021]
[9] UNEP DTU Partnership (2021). ‘Climate Transparency and Accountability’. URL: https://unepdtu.org/transparency-and-accountability/
[10] MINAE (2018). ‘Qué es SINAMECC?’. URL: http://www.sinamecc.go.cr/sinamecc-info/ [Last accessed: 09.05.2021] Only available in Spanish.
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