The Paris Agreement has set the world on course for transformative climate action to cut emissions, promote clean energy, build climate resilience, and catalyze climate action investments. The Agreement’s backbone is transparency and accountability on the steps countries are taking toward these goals. This transparency is vital for building international trust and confidence that action is taking place as well as for assessing how to facilitate further action.

The Agreement’s provisions on Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) are central to this transparency system. The transparency framework will provide countries and wider stakeholders with the information and feedback they need on actual progress to improve efforts and promote efficient and cost-effective policies while also providing domestic and international accountability.

The Paris Agreement also unquestionably delivers a strong, enhanced transparency and accountability framework through the following provisions:

  • Universal and harmonized reporting and verification requirements
  • A commitment to enhance transparency over time, while taking account of countries’ differing capacities
  • Legally binding rules and processes holding all countries accountable

Universal and Harmonized Accounting, Reporting and Verification Requirements

The Paris transparency framework brings all countries into a common process for providing enhanced data and tracking progress against their commitments on mitigation, adaptation, and support. Countries agreed to the following common obligations:

  • Regular and more comprehensive reporting: All countries are required to regularly submit national greenhouse gas emission inventories, based on international scientific standards from the Intergovernmental Panel in Climate Change, and report on progress toward achieving their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for mitigation. The reports will occur on a biennial basis for all countries, except the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) who will report at their discretion. This will provide unprecedented clarity on global emission trends and countries’ actions.
  • In addition, countries will also regularly provide updates on their adaptation efforts, with developed countries sharing information on support they have provided (including finance), and developing countries sharing information for support they have received or provided.
  • Harmonized Verification Process: For all Parties, the information they submit will be subject to a technical expert review and a multilateral, facilitative consideration of progress.
  • Common modalities, procedures, and guidelines: Guidelines for accounting, reporting, and verification will be drafted after Paris; fully developed by 2018; and formally adopted by 2020 – in time for the next round of NDCs and the entry into force of the agreement.
  • Principles for accounting of emissions and removals: All Parties’ submission of their NDCs will be guided by the principles of environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and avoidance of double counting. Guidance for accounting methodologies to be used in NDCs will be developed and adopted by 2020.

Facilitating Improvement Over Time While Acknowledging Different Capacities

Since some countries with limited capacity may not yet be fully able to implement the common rules for transparency, the Paris Agreement recognizes those countries will need to improve their transparency systems. In order to build confidence and improve those transparency systems over time, the Paris transparency framework provides developing countries with flexibility and support for implementation based on the capacities of specific countries – especially for LDCs and SIDS. The modalities and guidelines to be adopted after Paris will reflect such flexibility while still ensuring the use of common rules by all countries.

Capacity building will enable developing countries to establish effective transparency systems. The technical expert review for each country will pay particular attention to the national capabilities and circumstances of developing country Parties and assist developing countries in identifying capacity-building needs, especially for LDCs and SIDS. In addition, a Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency was established to strengthen institutional and technical capacity and support developing countries in meeting their requirements under the Paris agreement.

Legally Binding Rules and Processes to Hold Countries Accountable and Preserve Environmental Integrity

The key to a durable, operable, and effective agreement was finding the right balance between the breadth of participation by countries, rules stringency, and compliance. This balance is ensured in the transparency provisions of the Paris agreement with a hybrid of legally binding and other less stringent provisions, and the agreement provides two measures to promote effective implementation:

  • The agreed-upon technical expert review process includes consideration of countries’ implementation and achievement of their NDCs, identification of areas for improvement, and review of whether the information provided is consistent with the rules agreed.
  • The outcome of the MRV process will trigger the review by the committee established under the agreement to address implementation questions and promote compliance in a facilitative and transparent way.

The Paris Agreement’s transparency framework places all countries on a level playing field and provides flexibility for developing countries with less capacity. While the full set of common related rules and procedures will be designed starting in 2016, the Agreement has already established the foundation for the strong and ambitious actions and support needed to achieve a climate transformation.