Transparency: The beating heart of the Paris Agreement
While establishing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Paris Agreement also put into place a more rigorous enhanced transparency framework (ETF) for climate action and support.
To achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, nations need reliable, transparent and comprehensive information on GHG emissions, climate actions and support. All signatories to the Paris Agreement are obliged to share information about their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and actions to reduce them, and means of implementation (e.g. finance, technology transfer and capacity-building).
Data transparency about such efforts is essential to communicate the world’s collective climate progress and opportunities for support. It also informs future deliberation and guidance on these matters at a global level.
"The NDCs are the face of the Paris Agreement. Transparency is the heart that pumps information and data where it needs to be for the Paris Agreement to function." Dr. Henning Wuester, Director, Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) thus captured the essence of a strong mitigation and adaptation policy measuring framework for the Paris Agreement at the World Sustainable Development Summit 2020.
A new paradigm of climate action data reporting
Addressing the thematic track 'Tracking India's NDCs: Methodologies and Tools for tracking progress on mitigation and adaptation policies/actions in India' at WSDS 2020, Dr. Wuester explained how the ETF puts in place a new paradigm of measuring climate actions and impact for all countries.
Measuring the impact of climate actions needs a clear baseline. The assessment of any sustainability initiative can be made from the point of view of a policy, the actions it implements or the end-goals. Mr. Jyoti Prasad Painuly, Senior Researcher, UNEP-DTU, said identifying the right baseline can help improve monitoring and evaluation of adaptation measures.
The benefits of this approach, as Dr. Wuester outlined, are manifold. Environmental data that takes into consideration the impact of policies on a variety of areas, such as job creation and economic growth, air pollution, water scarcity etc. can make for evidence-based policymaking. Further, considering that it shines a light on the cross-cutting impact of policies, more stakeholder engagement across sectors can be enabled. Such an approach can give due recognition to a wider spectrum of stakeholders, including non-state actors (including businesses and research institutions). And, by giving access to accurate and transparent progress monitoring, course-correction is made easier. Transparent, verified data is also a powerful tool for engaging financial stakeholders, who are powerful catalysts of climate action.
A case for better climate data for India
This framework, Mr. R.R. Rashmi, Distinguished Fellow & Programme Director, TERI, explained, not only considers the emissions inventory, but all climate actions that touch upon the NDCs - including adoption of sustainable lifestyles. He added that to create such a comprehensive framework for reporting, India will need a more centralised, comprehensive inventory management system that incorporates data from multiple agencies. Only then can data - owned, verified, and authenticated by the government - be used as the base of effective policy making.
Along with serving as the base for climate action reporting, India can also use such a granular approach to data to re-evaluate policy decisions across linkages. Enumerating this, Mr Vijay Pankaj Menghani, Chief Engineer, Central Electricity Authority, gave the example of the Indian power sector. Though it directly impacts sectors as diverse as agriculture, water, transport, India today needs to quantify this impact. Only then can energy policymaking be holistic, and not be limited to issues like energy tariffs and consumer access. Similarly, he said data from electric vehicle charging stations can help identify the true environmental impact of electric vehicles.
A broader umbrella
While India's sustainability initiatives have been helmed at the Centre, the role of actors such as cities and states, businesses, donor agencies, research institutes and other actors today is not given due visibility in the nation's climate reporting. However, as Pankaj Bhatia, Department Director, Climate Program and Director, GHG Protocol, WRI, pointed out, such actors have a tremendous contribution to India's sustainability goal, and India cannot risk not accounting it.