Beyond Facilitative Accountability in the Paris Agreement: Three Additional “Accountability Pathways”

During the UN Climate Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, the fourth workshop of the Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV) was held as part of the 47th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). Here, five developing countries (non-Annex I), after submitting reports for technical review, presented their reports on the development of domestic MRV systems and the mitigation policies they have adopted. This was followed by an opportunity for the other states to ask questions.

This peer-to-peer exchange, and its equivalent for Annex I countries in the form of the Multilateral Assessment process, is to provide learning for what the development of the ‘facilitative’ accountability framework for individual countries under the Paris Agreement may look like (see Article 13, paragraph 3). In the same way, the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018 is a kind of practice run for future global stocktaking, aimed at prodding countries to adjust their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) upwards, in order to keep the overall Paris Agreement goals in sight.

Source: UNFCCC Twitter

In a recently published paper in Climate Policy,  we argue that additional accountability processes, formal and informal, and primarily at domestic levels, have stronger potential to entice compliance from states. We also systematically explore four pathways of accountability.

The first is the global pathway of peer-to-peer accountability among states within the regime itself. The effectiveness of this pathway – with the facilitative tools it will employ – depends considerably on whether compliance with the Paris Agreement (beyond the procedural legal obligations) becomes the norm. Countries want neither to lose face nor to be left behind, and they will work harder to do their best if others they respect do the same. Only a limited number of countries will ignore being internationally named and shamed, and others will still want to show moral leadership.

The second pathway goes through national institutions and, for EU member states, also via European institutions, such as the parliament, inspection agencies and other legal bodies. They can play a key role in formulating the national contributions to reduce CO2 emissions and to develop effective policies and legislation.

The third pathway is enacted through the public such as individuals, civil society organisations and scientists. At the COPs, on international forums and over social media, many civil society organisations assess countries on their efforts and alert them to their responsibilities. The power of this type of ‘accountholding’ from these non-state actors depends on how well they can perform their own research, set up campaigns and win the support of policymakers. It is also essential that traditional media report on these activities and that governments give citizens plenty of scope to manoeuvre and rebel.

Finally, executive governments might hold themselves to account, for example through their own internal systems of monitoring and evaluation of policy effectiveness and efficiency. The functioning of this pathway will largely depend on the kind of administrative traditions and cultures existing in each state, and what provisions for this they include in their implementing climate laws and policies.

These four pathways invariably interact in various ways and form an intricate web of ‘watchdogs’, arenas and mechanisms through which accountability for state obligations under the Paris Agreement can be enacted (both legal and moral). We see plenty of potential for comparative research of these pathways and the web they weave, which can provide the foundation for identifying ways to improve both their effectiveness and legitimacy.

Note: this blog draws partly on a blog posted on the Wageningen University website. The original post was part of the University’s efforts to share research with the public via advertisements accompanied by a blog. Further information at: http://www.wur.nl/en/In-the-spotlight/show-in-the-spotlight/More-roads-lead-to-compliance-with-the-Paris-Climate-Agreement.htm

About the Author

 

Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen is Assistant professor in the Public Administration and Policy Group at Wageningen University and Member of Climate Strategies.

 

 

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