Building Transparency and Accountability in a New Climate Agreement

Creative Commons (Courtesy of Benson Kua)When we seek accountability, we must start with transparency.

 

The goal of COP 21 is to produce a robust post-2020 climate agreement that establishes clear goals and a pathway for achieving them. The goals sit at the end of the path. Lighting the pathway are transparency measures built in the agreement. Climate Strategies recently released a policy brief on different measures that could strengthen accountability in the Paris Agreement. The brief identified key international and domestic actions to boost transparency and accountability.

 

The brief identifies several key international actions to improve accountability. The first and second actions work in combination. The first action is choosing the shape and form of the agreement. A legally binding agreement can hold parties accountable for their non-performance and encourage state compliance. A non-legally binding agreement would not be able to use international legal mechanisms to enforce compliance. The second action would be to create a strong legal mechanism for holding parties accountable for their climate commitments. The third action would be for Parties to improve the existing measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) system and strengthen its connections to the compliance mechanism. Fourth, the brief recommends opening up the MRV system to participation from non-state actors who would add impartiality and enhanced review of commitments. Lastly, the parties could create a politically independent body to review compliance with commitments.

 

At the domestic level, the brief focuses on actions that strengthen internal legal mechanisms within and outside of government. The first suggested action is ratification of the agreement and incorporation into domestic law. An example of incorporating domestic law include the UK’s Climate Change Act divides responsibility for carbon emission reduction between government agencies. Imposing obligations on government agencies requires them to account for their actions and encourages them to fulfill their duties. The second suggested action is to develop a proactive Parliament that uses it formal procedures to provide continuous oversight. Parliamentary review is conducted in a transparent public forum thus providing a powerful incentive to comply with commitments. Integration into domestic law also creates opportunity for citizen involvement and enforcement. Citizen enforcement actions shine light on government non-action.

 

Goal setting is an important first step for a post-2020 climate agreement. But goal setting is not enough by itself. A bright climate future requires transparency to shine a light on the path to achieving those goals.