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UNFCC: Al Gore and High-Level Speakers- Transparency and Accountability Underpin Effective Climate Action

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Two weeks of transparency events kicked off at COP27 in Egypt last week under the banner “Together4Transparency”. With discussions ranging from the need for reliable greenhouse gas emissions estimates accessible to all to the role that information plays in reducing risks and uncertainties in order to attract financial support for action, the series of events addresses the full range of actors and issues related to transparency.

At the opening ceremony, keynote speaker and former US Vice President Al Gore called for “radical transparency” to guide us toward a net-zero emissions future and observed the simple truth that “you can’t manage what you cannot measure”. Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) Marianne Karlsen, UN Climate Change Transparency Director Donald Cooper and Egyptian YOUNGO representative Riham Refaat reinforced the role of the Enhanced Transparency Framework in ensuring that the Paris Agreement is effectively and credibly implemented.

“Together4Transparency” aims to unite stakeholders involved in supporting the transition toward the Enhanced Transparency Framework of the Paris Agreement. The two-week series of events covers a range of transparency issues – from celebrating the progress and achievements made over the past 30 years, to showcasing successes and best practices in the reporting and review processes and paving the way for full implementation of the Paris Agreement by all Parties.

Mid-way through COP27, a high-level “Together4Transparency” event was held to exchange views on what transparency means and what benefits it can bring. In his opening remarks, Deputy Executive Secretary Ovais Sarmad noted: “The health of our planet – and life as we know it – depends on each of us doing our part to address the climate emergency and moving us closer to net-zero emissions by 2050. We must act now to achieve results and ensure that promises made are promises kept. But to ensure that, we need to have reliable climate data and information. The reporting, review and consideration of this climate data and information is referred to as ‘transparency’. Without it, we are left to act blindly, without knowledge of our circumstances and our impacts. This is why transparency is at the very core of the Paris Agreement, and everything we do here.”

Turning to the private sector, IKEA’s Chief Sustainable Officer Pär Stenmark noted that, as a global company that engages with millions of customers around the world, IKEA has a big responsibility, and that “transparency is rooted in our way of thinking”. From his perspective, Stenmark noted that transparency is about corporate accountability, becoming a vehicle of change, and a providing a “backbone for the better”.

From a policy-making perspective, African Director of the High-Level Climate Champions Bogolo Kenewendo noted that transparency is about “making good on promises”. Kenewendo elaborated that transparency is about knowing what we’ve committed to, what is being done, and what more we need to do. From her view, transparency doesn’t apply only to countries’ actions; it’s also about how non-state actors, including the private sector, can help countries to reach their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Global Climate Ambassador and CEO of the Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator Racquel Moses defined transparency as “a carrot, not a stick”. In her view, transparency challenges climate actors to do more, to do better, and in identifying leaders, it helps us all to all learn from those who are blazing the trail. In this way, Moses says transparency is both a “tool and an opportunity, citing examples of how transparent data have helped to guide Jamaica’s energy sector transformation, Barbados’s adoption of solar water heaters, and Bermuda’s advances in water security.

Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change Nisreen Elsaim questioned whether any further definition of transparency is needed. Rather, she challenged, “Are we really ready to be transparent, given how judgmental people can be when information is shared?” For governments, Elsaim argued, the incentive lies in making promises – but not always in fulfilling them, which is why transparency is a critical part of holding countries accountable. In response, Stenmark challenged the audience to “dare to be transparent”, as we learn the most from others, not just by sharing successes, but also failures.

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