Climate Change, Science, Sustainability

We Need Transparency to Make the Paris Agreement Work

We need transparency to make the Paris Agreement work.
Photo: Shutterstock

The Paris Agreement is an international plan to reduce carbon emissions in order to help keep the average global temperature at a reasonable level. That temperature is going to rise, but the hope is to keep it from rising too much over the rest of the century, buying us time to figure out better, more environmental practices for agriculture and production. It is predicated on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), wherein countries pledged to reduce their carbon output by a certain amount based on their current output, with the total being enough to, hopefully, restrain temperature increase.

Reducing output is one thing, but measuring it is another. European scientists are warning that if we don’t take special care to develop workable transparency processes, we might not actual reach our goals. They argue that each country involved in the Paris Agreement needs to develop clear, transparent systems by which to measure and report their carbon output, so that other nations can hold them accountable for keeping up their end of the bargain.

There is a strong political element to this as well, which goes beyond the technical. There are important obstacles including concerns about the cost of reporting, control, and the perceived usefulness of the information produced by the reporting.

“An important part of the implementation of the Paris Agreement will hinge on whether political actors can muster the leadership in order to successfully navigate monitoring challenges at the international level,” says study lead author Jonas Schoenefeld. “The EU’s experience shows that incorporating policies into NDCs should be seen as one step in a long journey to better knowledge of climate policies.”

But they also warn that it’s important we don’t allow such measurements to simply be an opportunity to point the blame at countries that didn’t hold up their part of the bargain. This is why we need to put in the work to build this system fairly and across the board, making sure that everyone is one the same page as far as recording and reporting carbon outputs and climate data in general.

This process will take years, but it will be worth the effort. By creating a uniform system, one that ideally does not put undue stress on less developed countries, we can ensure that we have the most current data and able to adapt to it in the future in order to fill in gaps and make sure we meet our goals.

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