27.05.2021

Transparency as the backbone of ambitious climate action 

Photo: GIZ

A cement factory, a herd of cows, a landfill, and a truck – while admittedly an odd list of things at first glance, they share one important characteristic: They all emit greenhouse gases and thus contribute to climate change. In fact, understanding the degree to what various activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is not trivial. That is why it is vital that countries undertake the demanding task of building national transparency systems that allow for the regular collection of accurate data. Ultimately, only exhaustive data sets enable countries to calculate current and past emission levels across sectors and project future emission trends. This information base is key to identifying realistic, yet ambitious emission reduction potentials, and designing targeted climate policies. This includes Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the tracking of their implementation progress.

Transparency as part of the Paris Agreement

In fact, many government representatives and climate experts consider transparency the backbone of the international climate regime. 

“The success of the Paris Agreement depends on a functioning transparent and comprehensive reporting to evaluate the implementation of NDCs”, Nicole Wilke stresses, Head of Division of International Climate Policy at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. “When countries can evaluate their real progress in climate action, they can truly define new ambitious goals, and even identify synergies among each other.”

Recognizing the importance of transparency, the Paris Agreement included the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) for reporting on action and support as a central mechanism. It shall build mutual trust and confidence among countries to help boost ambitious climate action at the national level and hence, globally. 

At the climate change conference in Katowice in 2018, common rules for this framework were agreed. This included guidance on the information countries should provide in their NDCs. Specifically, from 2024 onwards, all countries will have to report national greenhouse gas inventories and how they progress in implementing and achieving their NDC every two years. This information will be fundamental to the global stocktake that will periodically aggregate the national progresses and thus assess the international community’s achievements towards keeping the global warming limits agreed in Paris.

The Partnership on Transparency in the Paris Agreement 

This is where the Partnership on Transparency in the Paris Agreement (PATPA) – co-founded and co-financed by Germany – steps in. Since 2010, PATPA and its predecessor, the International Partnership for Mitigation and MRV, have been working to strengthen national transparency systems around the world. By bringing together negotiators and practitioners, it thus promotes the identification of ambitious climate targets. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 PATPA continued developing capacities on transparency around the world:

In a two-staged support in Bolivia for example, PATPA’s Climate Helpdesk assisted in updating over ten years of the GHG inventory in the energy sector. This in turn allows Bolivia to found its NDC update on current, accurate and reliable data. It ultimately strengthens the potential of the energy sector to contribute to ambitious climate action. The revision revealed where emissions come from and indicated mitigation potentials in the sector. The technical support fed into internal discussions in the Bolivian government and provided valuable information and recommendations that will aid Bolivia in its NDC updating process.  

Fostering exchange between countries 

This is just one showcase of the activities of PATPA to assist countries with their GHG inventories and to track the progress in implementing their NDCs. Beyond that, PATPA offers a range of other (digital) formats designed to foster exchange between countries. 

Regularly held meetings in five regional groups and global events, for example, serve as a learning platform for countries, in which they can share their experiences, lessons learnt, and good practices. By providing a platform for capacity development and dialogue between countries on enhanced climate transparency, PATPA contributes to countries being able to thoroughly log national emissions – may it be of livestock or of rush hour traffic – which will make for stronger and evidence-based NDCs. 

These examples give a brief insight in the practical benefit of comprehensive analysis and reporting on the national level and how PATPA is able to create added value to it. With its insights in peculiar national circumstances, the Partnership can help identify parallel challenges and create synergies to solve them. 
PATPA’s experience underlines, that transparency is the foundation to ambitious climate targets and the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Or in other words: You cannot save the climate with transparency only, but certainly not without it!