The Paris Agreement in 2015 highlighted the importance of non-state actors (NSAs), including businesses, financial institutions, and subnational governments, in climate action. These entities have been making voluntary commitments to mitigate climate change, finance green initiatives, and adapt to changing environments. Despite the increasing involvement of NSAs, there are concerns about “greenwashing” or making misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company. This underscores the need for a robust framework for NSA accountability.

The article emphasizes the need to refine reporting mechanisms, broaden data collection, and leverage innovative technologies like AI for better tracking and accountability of NSA actions. Three recommendations below:

  1. Streamlining reporting processes is needed to integrate NSAs’ data and efforts with national governments. The UN’s proposed Non-Party Accountability and Recognition Framework introduces a parallel accounting approach to national governments’ own reporting requirements under the Paris Agreement, necessarily introducing a two-track approach. It remains unclear how countries will integrate these two tracks since NSA action, in theory, is meant to help countries ratchet up the ambition of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) over time through the ‘‘facilitative, catalytic cycles’’ of the Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement. One way to achieve a better interconnection between various stakeholders is by adopting an ecosystem-based approach to align data and reporting standards, governance, and evaluation processes.
  2. Future iterations of the GST must expand the scope of NSA climate action tracking by including parameters that contextualize progress and ambition, necessitating a fundamental shift in measurement approaches. For more reliable evidence of ambition and progress, NSA reporting needs to extend beyond the sole numbers of emissions and the scope of action to include the representation of types of actions, actors, and geographies. Assessing representation can encompass inputs such as targets and financing, outputs such as policies and investment, outcomes like behavioural change, which can also help to ratchet overall ambition and impacts like improved social and environmental indicators and reduced emissions — all of which are geographically and contextually determined.
  3. Tracking progress must also be nuanced and adapted to account for local complexities, allowing for a more comprehensive and equitable climate action evaluation. For far too long, the global community has focused on monitoring momentum, participation, and ambition, neglecting to track tangible actions and progress towards commitment and initiative goals. To assess progress meaningfully, we must contextualize high-level metrics tracking tons reduced, populations included, etc., in a way that extends beyond the surface.

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