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Digital technologies – the missing link between climate action transparency and accountability?

Reference Type: 

Journal Article

Hsu, Angel, and Marco Schletz. 2023. “Digital Technologies – the Missing Link between Climate Action Transparency and Accountability?” Climate Policy 0 (0): 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2023.2237937.

The rise of digital technologies poses opportunities and challenges for transparency and accountability in climate governance. This paper examines their impact on information flows and accountability in the context of climate outcomes, analyzing three case examples (World Bank Climate Warehouse, Climate TRACE, and OpenClimate) to assess the potential of digital solutions to improve data availability and reliability, particularly for non-state actors (NSAs). Using Ostrom's ‘rules in use’ framework, we explore how digital technologies shape transparency outcomes, highlighting challenges and unintended consequences. We analyze how these initiatives frame, design, and implement their rules for digital approaches to define their participants’ data collection, purpose, and access rules, all of which are crucial aspects impacting transparency and accountability for the Paris Agreement. Our findings reveal uncertainties in the rules' operationalization for these digital technologies that undermine their potential to enhance transparency. Three key issues emerge: (1) establishing appropriate rules to govern data quality for accuracy and credibility; (2) addressing power imbalances to foster inclusive and equitable transparency; and (3) aligning rules in use across digitally-enabled solutions to promote coordination and facilitate polycentrism in the post-Paris climate regime. These insights shed light on the role of digital approaches in bridging transparency and accountability gaps, emphasizing the need for careful rule design and coordination for effective implementation in global climate governance. KEY POLICY INSIGHTS Digital technologies have the potential to generate new modes of transparency within the Paris climate governance system, particularly at the level of non-state and subnational actors.By comparing three case examples employing digital technologies to improve climate data, we evaluate various formal and informal ‘rules in use’ for generating data and facilitating sharing across actors and initiatives to enhance transparency and accountability.To leverage the potential of digital technologies in advancing transparency and accountability in climate governance, policymakers should prioritize the alignment of rules in use, address power imbalances, and ensure the creation of appropriate rules governing data quality and structure.

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