Enhanced Transparency Framework Goes Live in 2024

With the exciting milestones of COP28 behind us, it’s time to look at the year ahead and an oft discounted element of the international climate regime. In 2024, the first transparency reports under the Paris Agreement should be submitted by Parties as the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) comes online.

The ETF mandates that nearly all Parties to the Paris Agreement submit these reports before a December 31 deadline. Only small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) facing capacity barriers to reporting may defer, meaning that all other countries must submit their transparency reports by the end of 2024.

Why is transparency important?

Transparency is the linchpin to understanding whether a country is following through on its climate pledges. Country transparency reports not only fulfill Party obligations as signatories to the Paris Agreement, they also build trust between countries by putting climate action on the record.

Now that the first global stocktake has been completed, the full operationalization of the ETF is a critical next step in the five-year ambition cycle of the Paris Agreement. Greenhouse gas data from these reports will be submitted in a standardized format, making it possible to compare and collate understandings of collective progress that can be used in future stocktakes. Reporting can also help countries gain clarity on progress toward other important domestic climate objectives, address gaps in their national data gathering processes, and facilitate internal capacity building.

What does the Enhanced Transparency Framework cover?

The ETF outlines the process for countries to gather and report greenhouse gas inventory data, track their progress against the overarching goals of the Paris Agreement and their own Nationally Determined Contributions, and deliver updates on the financial support they are providing or receiving.

These reports, known as Biennial Transparency Reports (BTRs), represent the first time that countries will be implementing new ETF guidance. Previously, countries had bifurcated reporting guidelines depending on their development classification under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under the Paris Agreement, Parties created one unified reporting system with all countries using the same modalities, procedures, and guidelines to prepare their BTRs and report on the same timeline. Andorra and Australia have already submitted portions of their first BTRs in demonstration of their commitment to climate transparency initiatives.

Reporting challenges

With the December deadline looming ahead, there are several important hurdles to clear before countries have the direction needed to finalize their BTRs. Critically, the UNFCCC Secretariat is still working to publish a necessary reporting tool for countries to easily compile their inventory data in a consistent manner. The Secretariat expects to publish the tools in June and has released some training in the meantime, but Parties ultimately have just six months to utilize the final platform to prepare their reports.

Furthermore, this year will be the first time that many developing countries will report their climate actions. As with any “first,” many countries are understandably facing challenging capacity constraints on issues such as staffing, funding, or institutional data collection and availability. Recognizing these issues would arise, the Paris Agreement created the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) fund to provide all developing countries with financial resources to build up their reporting abilities. According to the Global Environment Facility, 80 countries have sought and received financial assistance under the CBIT program as of COP28. That said, there are still some 30 developing countries, outside of SIDS and LDCs, which have not yet begun the process of applying for CBIT funding or technical support.

Given the limited time remaining, it is critical that these countries begin their preparations to participate in the ETF, and it is essential for Parties to pursue access to the CBIT funding and technical support as necessary to submit their Biennial Transparency Reports before the end of 2024. Transparency has an important role to play in illustrating where global climate action stands today so that even greater change can be pursued in the future.