Our Perspectives

The Paris Agreement brings potential for transparency

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In Paris, a public registry of NDC in the first half of 2016 was created, with the mission to collect all contributions to global climate action. Photo: UNDP Guatemala

COP21 closed with the adoption the first universal agreement to combat climate change. This agreement pledges to contain global warming well below 2° C, adapt better to climate impacts, and enable a more effective flow of climate change funding to developing countries. This is truly innovative because it will commit countries to be publically accountable regarding everything they do to combat climate change at the national level.

The new global climate agreement does not impose quotas for reducing greenhouse gas emissions nor concrete adaptation plans. On the contrary, it relies directly on the commitments that each country decides to make internally – intended nationally determined contributions (NDCs). This is why it is necessary to reach the set reduction target of 2° C.

How can we know how far we have gone?

The Paris Agreement requires all countries to prepare an NDC every five years, which must be increasingly more ambitious than its previous NDC. In its NDCs, the States should indicate what activities will be taken and plans implemented in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They must also publically report on their national greenhouse gas inventory data and provide the information needed to assess progress in implementing their contributions.

Transparency will play a central role in this. In Paris, it was agreed that NDCs will be recorded in a public registry in the first half of 2016, to collect all contributions to global climate action. This will allow the world to regularly take stock of the NDCs as a whole and see how close or far we are from achieving the target of 2° C.

This will help us measure countries’ true commitment with respect to climate change. The public nature of the registry will allow us to know who is doing what and how, as well as which countries are being more effective in fulfilling their NDCs.

We will have the tools to see what the leaders of our countries are doing to cope with climate change, to assess this information, and to integrate it our rights and obligations as citizens.

Internet access is increasingly widespread; for example, in Chile, 72.4 percent of the population is “connected” daily. Information flows more easily than ever before. The public registry of the NDCs will be increasingly accessible from most parts of the world.

The transparency tool that the Paris Agreement promotes can support change in the relationship between citizens and the public authorities, however in practice, it fails to actually implement this change. It is important that the tool be understandable and accessible to anyone who is interested and not just experts. Moreover, it is important that the data will be published in open and reusable formats for civil society organizations to assess.

The outlook looks positive for Latin America. Negotiations should soon be concluded to create a regional mechanism for implementing Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), which advocates for the right to appropriate access to public information concerning the environment in order to encourage citizen participation and social awareness.

It is essential to take advantage of this momentum for the immediate future that the Paris Agreement provides. And the potential is wide open.

Energy Environment Climate change and disaster risk reduction Sustainable development Sergio García Rodríguez Latin America & the Caribbean Rocío Noriega Climate change International aid transparency initiative Transparency

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