Introduction

As countries design and implement policies and actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, the production, disclosure, monitoring, and use of data will be essential to understand risks, track progress, enable informed action, and evaluate impact across a range of sectors. Effective climate action calls for a coordinated and coherent response across societies, underpinned by shared information. While national governments must play a lead role in responding to climate change, the Paris Agreement and subsequent Talanoa Dialogue have clearly established that contributions from subnational governments, the private sector, and civil society are crucial for success. Just as national governments both produce and use data, non-state actors may play both roles as well. Compiling and encouraging access to climate-relevant data empowers national and subnational governments to develop low-carbon development plans, informs private sector investment decisions, and allows civil society to participate more effectively and translate information to less data-literate users. Improved data access can also foster more robust collaboration among diverse sectors and actors, a fundamental ingredient in the climate change agenda given its intersectionality and the crucial need of coordination for impactful actions.

However, we often find that climate-relevant data is inexistent, incomplete, fragmented across agencies, and not made available in interoperable and accessible formats., And while much of the climate community has focused on establishing reporting standards in international climate negotiations, the ability of domestic stakeholders to access and understand climate-relevant data can enable greater political accountability and more diffused efforts towards global climate goals, as well as increase ambition based on informed planning. Even when they recognize the importance of making climate-relevant data accessible, government agencies may not have sufficient resources and technical capacity to collect, curate, and publish datasets. They further may not understand the demand for various datasets or may fail to publish them because of weak mandates, political concerns, or misaligned incentives.

At the same time, hopeful data users may not know what data exists and where and how it can be accessed. The work of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) and the stakeholder-driven commitments to open climate data through the Open Government Partnership (OGP) have demonstrated the sustained interest in making climate-relevant data more accessible. For example, eight countries have made commitments to enhance public access to climate data through the OGP. Yet these stakeholders have expressed a need for support in understanding which data types should be considered as part of these efforts and how they may be used by different domestic stakeholders.

In addition, we have found that expert groups predominantly work in silos, each collecting and curating their own types of climate-relevant information, exacerbating the burden for policymakers to develop integrated approaches to address climate change. Likewise, the Task Force on Climate Change-Related Statistics, through a survey of 48 national statistical offices, stakeholder consultations, and expert meetings found that datasets that could be useful for climate change analysis are not being fully linked across sectors, agencies, and domains. It also found that, in many cases, existing and available climate-relevant statistics are not used to their full potential, with duplication of efforts across data-collecting agencies. Similarly, even when countries have developed open data initiatives with political support, they may not be linked up with repositories of climate-relevant data. Currently the best example of a merging of climate-relevant data from across sectors and agencies are countries’ National Communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which include a national GHG inventory and adaptation relevant data. Both are generated based on data provided by a plethora of entities—such as meteorological agencies, planning commissions, agriculture ministries, etc.

This Climate Open Up Guide gives an overview of key climate-relevant data types and is intended to be used by national stakeholders to prioritize and publish the most important data types in their domestic context. It is important to note that this guide does not contain an exhaustive list of climate data types for tracking and reporting. Rather, it is meant to provide a starting point to bring together data holders and potential data users from government and across society to identify, locate, and begin to publish key climate-relevant information in ways that support its use. Some data types listed below may be deemed less important or irrelevant in certain national contexts. Users should also use the guide to consider whether and how systematic open data efforts may contribute to the optimization of information that is already available in the public domain in some form but is not being fully used. Likewise, they should consider how open data may help translate the information included in reports to the UNFCCC into more adequate and user-friendly platforms for different audiences. Governments should assess how their open data initiatives align with national policies and international reporting standards on climate action and related issues. Finally, the digitalization process undertaken by all countries, at different paces, allows a unique opportunity for systematization and centralization of key data.