Nations in ‘Glass Houses’: The Rules of Transparency

glass houseWhile not as publicly flashy as the issue of ambition, transparency received a good deal of attention during the negotiations that brought us to the Final Agreement in Paris on Saturday. Parties had to come to a consensus about how exposed their internal policies and actions would be to scrutiny. This is a key point, each Party is a sovereign nation yet they are subjected to evaluation by an outside group. The Transparency framework therefore must be implemented in “a facilitative, non-intrusive, and non-punitive manner respectful of national sovereignty.” (Art. 13.1) Essentially, they have moved into “glass houses”. Equality in Transparency requirements attempts to prevent stone throwing.


Why is transparency so important? Parties need to be able to see what each other is doing in order to build confidence and trust in the system (Art. 13.1). The framework for Transparency is constructed around both actions and support, therefore affecting all other sections of the Final Agreement. Transparency requirements apply to Parties’ mitigation efforts, adaptation projects and policies, technology transfers, capacity-building, and financial support. Parties are more likely to act in furthering their efforts in mitigation and implementing their NDC plans if they can clearly see that others are doing so as well. Further, developed country Parties, other Parties in a position to do so, and private investors are more likely to provide resources to the developing countries Parties if they can account for the monetary flows and technology transfer.


Of course, the cross-cutting issue of differentiation plays a large role in Transparency as well. During the negotiations, recognition that some Parties would have different capacities to assess and then report progress towards full implementation of the Agreement was a sticking point. Ultimately, the “older” system of “Common But Differentiated Responsibility” or “CBDR” was replaced in the Transparency section with “flexibility” considering the respective capacities of the Parties (Art. 13.2).  This is more akin to a sliding scale of ability rather than the older systems of bifurcation. There remains special consideration for LDCs and SIDS in the establishment of the transparency framework (Art. 13.3).

Each Party will report on emissions and removals according to methodologies accepted by the IPCC, information relating to the Party’s NDC, and climate change impacts (Art. 13.7). These wipe cleanreports are to be submitted biennially, with an exception for LDCs and SIDS. The technical expert review of the information submitted will undergo a facilitative, multilateral consideration of their progress. For developing Parties, this review shall include assistance in identifying capacity-building needs (Art. 13.11). Support for the implementation of this and all other requirements of this Article shall be provided on a continuing basis. (Art. 13.14 and 13.15).

Living in a “glass house” requires that Parties keep to their promises made in Paris and that they help others with their housekeeping to clear the view of activities and support. A cleaner world will be our reward.