[Chapel Hill, NC, December 8, 2023] – A new report by the Data-Driven EnviroLab calls for a universal digital climate accountability system to enhance data quality from non-state actors (NSA) and halt greenwashing. Developed in response to increasing calls from activists, analysts, and policymakers for improved data to hold corporations and governments accountable for their climate efforts, the report emphasizes the pivotal role of NSAs in driving the objectives of the Paris Agreement while shedding light on the challenges they face in accurate data accounting and reporting.

The report titled “Envisioning the Future of Non-State Climate Action Data and Accountability” is based on in-depth interviews with more than 20 organizations and stakeholders and identifies four primary factors impacting the quality and application of NSA’s climate data:

  •     Lack of standards to counter greenwashing: Voluntary self-reporting has led to varied methodologies and a lack of unified standards, compromising the credibility of information and enabling misleading claims.
  •     Fragmented data exchange for climate action tracking: Inconsistent compilation and sharing of climate action data by NSAs hinder the ability to track progress.
  •     Resource constraints impacting emissions accounting: Smaller entities, particularly in developing countries, face capacity constraints in conducting thorough emissions accounting.
  •     Lack of regulatory alignment: Setting standards alone is insufficient; regulatory bodies must universally adopt and consistently apply these standards.

“Momentum for non-state climate action has grown exponentially over recent years, yet there is a dearth of information and transparency regarding whether these efforts are being implemented and translating into credible, on-the-ground action,” said Angel Hsu, lead author of the report and director of the Data-Driven EnviroLab.

To address these barriers, the report proposes a future Digitally-enabled Climate Action Accountability System to unite NSAs within a single, cohesive framework for consistent collection, reporting and use of climate action data. To accomplish this, the System must adhere to the four guiding principles:

  1.     Openness, traceability, and machine readability: Emphasizing uniform metadata standards and open data structures to achieve interoperability.
  2.     Clear data governance protocols: Ensuring high-quality data that complies with legal and ethical standards for reliable decision-making.
  3.     Soft infrastructure for coordination, capacity, and community engagement: Active community involvement and co-creation to facilitate continuous engagement among stakeholders.
  4.     Embrace of digital innovation: Using technologies such as IoT sensors, satellite remote sensing, machine learning, and distributed ledger technology to improve data collection and analysis.

We are amid an unprecedented climate crisis, and we cannot afford greenwashing. We need a strong and unified system to make sure that we have reliable, high-quality data and can keep track of our progress or see where we are falling short. We also need a buy-in from regulators; they have an important role to play in climate accountability”, says Marco Schletz, post-doctoral research associate and one of the report authors.

In addition to creating the Digitally-enabled Climate Action Accountability System, the report proposes seven complementary actions, including improved coordination between regulatory frameworks and voluntary standard setters, wider use of decentralized data governance models, and application of AI.

The report calls for collaborative efforts from governments, businesses, and civil society to usher in a new era of climate accountability.



For more information, please contact: ellasavv@email.unc.edu

About Data-Driven EnviroLab

The Data-Driven EnviroLab (DDL) is an interdisciplinary and international group of researchers, scientists, programmers, and visual designers. The DDL uses innovative data analytics to distill signals from large-scale and unconventional datasets and develop policy solutions to contemporary environmental problems. The DDL is based at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and is a joint initiative between the Department of Public Policy, the Environment, Ecology, and Energy (E3P) Program, and the Institute for Environment at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.