ICAT at COP23: Recap

The annual United Nations Conference of the Parties, COP 23 held in Bonn and hosted by Fiji, was a dizzying two weeks full of debates, experts, protests and (at times seemingly incremental) progress towards shared climate goals. One major theme that came to the forefront in Bonn was the need for transparency as a core component of implementing the Paris Agreement. Indeed, transparency, and particularly financial transparency, became an important topic for debate and inclusion during this year’s official negotiations.

Transparency was also a key thread running throughout side events. The Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) participated in several such events, sharing our insights on transparency and monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

The Initiative held events at the IETA BusinessHub and the German Development Institute Interconnections Zone to introduce the newly-completed draft guidance and delve into some of its components. Presenters from VCS, UNEP DTU and WRI as partners of the Initiative shared insights on how to quantify untapped impacts and contributions to national climate targets, as well as how to enhance transparency and effectiveness in developing and implementing climate-smart socially responsible policies across key sectors. The panel discussions linked the technical aspects of the guidance to the broader ambitions of the Paris Agreement, including how to engage non-state and subnational actors, how to link climate action with sustainable development, and how to ensure that actions have the ability to truly transform our economies to low-carbon pathways. Transparent and effective climate action needs robust means to assess the impacts of policies and actions in order to prioritize them.

ICAT experts also had the opportunity to participate in several events on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and transparency. ICAT’s Coordinator and several representatives from its implementation partners shared insights on transparency and capacity building at a side event focused on readiness for transparency towards tracking of NDCs. While the focus on transparency in the Paris Agreement has come as a positive surprise to many, it is also being embraced, with one representative from Germany’s federal ministry of the environment stating that “transparency is the backbone of the ratcheting up mechanism,” referring to increasing country commitments over time.

Strengthening capacity towards MRV and transparency was also the topic of several events hosted by the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT), a sister initiative, which is working to strengthen national capacities to meet the enhanced transparency requirements and build a global coordination platform to support countries through peer exchange and public reporting.

Overall, COP 23 left us with several major takeaways. Chief among them, that in order to coordinate and ensure best efforts in an undertaking of this magnitude, transparency will be essential. We were heartened to see that government representatives and civil-society practitioners are taking a vested interest in the tools and resources needed to make such a transparent undertaking a reality.