Chiara Romano
June 22, 2023
Reading time:
10 min

As demands for data transparency continue to rise, it’s no longer enough for organisations to commit to climate action policies. With real-world examples from Africa, South East Asia and South America, Chiara explains how the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency equips us to make progress through data and why open data is the key to effecting change.

We’re all familiar with the dire consequences of climate change and the urgent need to limit global warming. Data has a crucial role to play in climate action initiatives – unlocking the power to understand, track, and optimise our efforts in tackling the pressing challenges of our changing climate.

Picture this: a world where climate action and cutting-edge data analytics and monitoring systems collide. That’s precisely what the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) sets out to achieve. Launched in 2016 and supported by individual countries, UN agencies, research institutions, and international organisations, this initiative aims to harness the power of data to tackle climate change.

“Transparency is the backbone of the Paris Agreement1. By having sound data and information systems in place, countries across the world are able to better design, implement and track their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) or long-term strategies – this is good for the climate globally and for sustainable development at home.

– Dr. Henning Wuester, Director of the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT)

Successful applications of the ICAT

Even though increased transparency is the main pillar and goal of the ICAT approach, the initiative also supports countries in strengthening their monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems to enhance transparency in climate action. The ICAT approach focuses on clarifying roles and responsibilities within the countries, building national capacity through training and workshops, engaging diverse stakeholders, and providing customised methodologies and tools. Furthermore, ICAT promotes knowledge-sharing and collaboration among countries to accelerate progress in addressing climate change.

In Mozambique, ICAT has partnered with the government to strengthen their MRV system, supporting the implementation of the country’s National Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy, as well as its commitment to the Paris Agreement. The project engaged stakeholders through a series of workshops and consultations, developing a roadmap for an improved system. The government applied ICAT methodologies to assess the impact of selected policies, revealing significant emission reductions and sustainable development co-benefits. Ultimately, the project focused on building institutional capacity, providing training and support for effective climate data management and utilisation. In doing so, ICAT’s work has boosted transparency, prepared Mozambique to update their NDC2, and laid the foundations for other long-term climate action initiatives.

Devastation caused by Cyclone Kenneth in the fishing village of Pemba in northern Mozambique, May 2019

Another successful example is a project called ‘Strengthening climate transparency in Sri Lanka’s transport sector’. In collaboration with the Sri Lankan government, ICAT focused on developing a robust MRV system for transport, recognising its significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Through extensive consultations and data reviews, ICAT helped design a centralised MRV system, assigning roles and responsibilities and creating a roadmap for its implementation. The project emphasised the importance of data availability and quality, raising awareness among stakeholders and providing training on assessment tools. By applying ICAT’s Assessment Guide for Transport Pricing and the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Cost Model (GACMO), Sri Lanka could assess policy impacts and identify effective climate actions. The improved data gathered through the MRV system played a crucial role in decision-making, enabling the review and revision of transport sector commitments.

Challenges faced when applying ICAT

It is important to notice that there have been instances where similar initiatives in the past have faced challenges due to various issues, including the quality of data. In some cases, inadequate data collection methods, lack of standardised protocols, and limited data availability have hindered the effectiveness of climate action initiatives.

Insufficient data can lead to inaccurate assessments, unreliable projections, and difficulty in measuring progress towards climate goals. Additionally, challenges such as data gaps, inconsistencies, and limited access to data can undermine transparency, hinder decision-making, and impede the development of targeted mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The promising approach that ICAT is adopting – anchored in transparency and focused on building capacity, creating frameworks for growth and promoting dialogue – is addressing the roots of these data-related issues and enabling the success of climate action initiatives. A key example of this is the promising emergence of open data policies.

Open data as the ultimate data-transparency frontier

Open data is characterised by its accessibility to any software and anyone who’s interested. As a result, it holds tremendous potential for unlocking insights and fostering collaboration in our collective efforts to reverse the course of climate change. Open data initiatives have been instrumental in making climate action more effective through various means. By improving data coordination and quality, open data helps streamline access, validate information, and avoid duplicative investments.

The Grey Glacier in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Chile

As explored in the working paper of the World Resources Institute entitled “Implementing Open Data Strategies for Climate Action: Suggestions And Lessons Learned for Government and Civil Society Stakeholders“, several initiatives have demonstrated how open data can empower effective climate action:

  • Open data democratises climate modelling by providing access to localised data, enhancing transparency and context specificity. For example, Chile’s Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR2) uses open data to construct climate models and provide easy access to reliable data, benefiting both officials and users.
  • Open data facilitates informed decision-making by integrating diverse data sources. Aclímate Colombia, for example, leverages open government datasets to assist farmers in adapting to changing weather patterns, enabling better recommendations and practices.
  • Open data encourages greater coordination and partnerships, as seen in Indonesia’s InaSAFE platform, which brought together scientists, government officials and communities to prioritise earthquake response efforts.
  • Open data enables enhanced monitoring of policies and programmes, fostering evidence-based citizen engagement and accountability. Futuro en Común in Spain, for example, used multiple open datasets to assess the government’s progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action.

These initiatives showcase the transformative power of open data in driving effective climate action. In the end, we can only improve what we measure (correctly). With Open Data as a cornerstone, governments and organisations alike can look to embark on the next chapter of our climate action journey, with data-driven solutions paving the way towards a more resilient and transparent world.

[1] Global climate accord aiming to combat climate change, limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
[2] Mitigation commitments: Total reduction of 76.5 MtCO2-eq in the period 2020 to 2030 compared to a business-as-usual scenario (based on preliminary analysis and conditional on financial, technological and capacity building support).

The successful applications listed by Chiara points to how data transparency plays a critical role in driving climate action. Our own Climate Action Dashboard is another tool designed to boost data transparency and accountability in both public- and private-sector organisations. Speak to Stewart, our GM Sustainability, to find out more.

About Chiara Romano

Chiara is a dynamic and driven professional with a strong passion for agriculture and smallholder farming. Through data analysis and visualization, she has dedicated her career to making a positive impact in these areas.

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