One expectation of the Paris Agreement is that transparency will stimulate countries to increase the ambition of their pledges by revealing information on their climate efforts. To this end, the agreement introduced a new “enhanced transparency framework” (ETF) to report and review information on parties’ emissions; progress on nationally determined contributions (NDCs); adaptation actions; and financial, technological and capacity-building support to developing country parties. However, this posited relationship between transparency and progressive ambition remains largely untested.

This article, part of a special issue of the journal Climate Policy edited by Pieter Pauw and Richard Klein, outlines several pathways through which increased transparency could potentially lead to increased ambition. These pathways notably depend on the availability of comparable, complete and timely information on parties’ performance. It identifies four types of likely challenge to the generation of such information by the ETF:

  • The flexibilities offered to developing countries on some dimensions of the ETF may lead to incomplete and uncomparable information.

  • heterogenous, qualitative and conditional NDCs; the variety of indicators parties choose to track their progress; and weaknesses in the reporting guidelines on climate action and support may make it difficult to assess and compare parties’ progress.

  • The information generated by the ETF may be outdated and partial, due to capacity gaps.

  • The apolitical design of the ETF means that it will not lead to judgments, for example on the level of ambition of an NDC, or even on whether a country is achieving its NDC. The ETF is also not equipped to deal with cases of political unwillingness to participate in the ETF itself.

It then suggests how these challenges could be addressed to support greater ambition in future rounds of NDCs.