Keeping up with COP: how can countries measure progress to net zero?

By on 06/11/2022 | Updated on 09/11/2022
COP21 sign

The Paris Agreement established a precedent for getting countries around the table to create and manage expectations – based on evidence and subject to scrutiny – around climate action. Seven years on from COP21, and methodologies for delivering on national goals have grown more refined, though performance between countries still varies 

COP26 last year established clear measures for countries to achieve net zero, including how they count their carbon emissions, report standards for industrial support, and pursue common timeframes for their CO2 reductions targets.

With the essential rules drawn up, the task now is for governments to make good their pledges. Doing so relies on trust, but that trust cannot be blind. It requires verification through systems that are transparent, and evidence based. Such systems can be strengthened by advising countries on their climate targets, increasing statistical capability, creating national greenhouse gas inventories, and developing effective tools for carbon footprint estimation.

Ahead of COP27, Global Government Forum brought together speakers from governments around the world to consider how this can be done at the ‘Playing by the Paris rulebook – what countries need to do now to measure their climate change goals’ webinar. In the session, Mike Thompson, chief economist at the UK climate change committee, Lorenz Noe, research manager at US Open Data Watch, Jose Furlan, climate change manager at the Rainforest Alliance Guatemala and Josh Griffin, co-founder and chief policy officer at knowledge partner nZero, discussed how countries can and should be encouraged to keep to their commitments.


The conversations touched on several areas including:

Why having good data is key to reporting on climate action, and how this can be a particular challenge for developing countries like Guatemala, when historically they have not had good information. 

How access to quality, open data can help drive behaviour change in organisations, government bodies and citizens, helping them to make informed choices about their carbon footprint. 

Thompson from the UK’s Climate Change Committee set out the four levels of monitoring his organisation uses; looking not just at emissions themselves, but also the changes they would expect to see by now and the policies that they think need to be in place in targets are going to be met.

Lorenz from Open Data Watch in the USA presented a vivid and revealing graphic from their 2020 Open Data Inventory, ranking countries in order of availability of national climate data.

The range of tools now available to help businesses measure their emissions was also discussed. 

The details of the reporting requirements put in place by UNFCC, which countries need to follow, were also part of the conversation. The panel was not overly optimistic that nations would meet their agreed reduction targets to the agreed timescales.

To learn all this and more, you can watch the 75-minute webinar via our dedicated event page. The webinar – hosted by Global Government Forum with the support of knowledge partner nZero – was held on 20 October 2022.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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