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Climate Action


The climate action module investigates national and sub-national climate action data as a critical tool for increasing the number and diversity of climate actors and supporting the expansion and ambition of mitigation and adaptation efforts.

In developing this module, a number of intersections with other current GDB modules were identified, notably energy, land, and public procurement. Indicators and sub-question elements from these modules may contribute to the climate action module, including: data on protected areas, concessions, forested areas, and land change; procurement data on environmental impact assessments; and data on the generation, distribution, and reliability of renewable energy.

Prospective Indicators

Climate Action Data and the Public Good

As the UN’s 2030 Agenda makes clear, addressing the climate crisis is a globally agreed public good. Climate change, and the actions that governments and publics can take to mitigate and adapt to climate change, are matters of vital importance around the world. Data can be a useful tool for prioritizing and assessing climate action, as well as a means to expand the number of groups who can track and propose climate action, take meaningful action in their own communities and organizations, and hold governments accountable for their actions or inaction.

Mindfulness of the climate crisis and the need for collaborative climate action underlies all of the sustainable development goals. Goal 13: Climate Action specifically calls for countries to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Target 13.1 focuses on adaptation and resilience; target 13.3 on improving awareness and capacities for mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warnings.

Biodiversity and climate have increasingly been recognized as inseparable and approached together through the ecosystem services model. The need to take action to protect biodiversity is articulated in the Aichi 2020 Biodiversity Targets (with targets 10 and 15 specifically related to effects of climate change), as well as the Sendai Framework 28(b), SDG 14: Life Below Water, and SDG 15: Life on Land.

Use Cases Shaping This Module

This module is designed to support governments taking climate action, as well as the ongoing expansion of climate action from an international policy orientation to on-the-ground action, that empowers diverse actors as climate decision-makers (Orlove et al. 2020). Climate decision-makers include actors ranging from individual members of the public to civil society organizations to city governments to businesses.

Governments will use this module’s evidence as a roadmap and diagnostic tool to aid integrating climate action into all agencies (SDG target 13.2) and making data not only internationally available, but accessible to diverse local stakeholders. Governments can also use this module to help align their climate action data, and consequently, efforts across regions and countries, which may allow them to more easily and successfully achieve nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Further, as the Barometer will generate data on two-year cycles, it will offer a structured incentive for countries to increase the ambitions of such commitments, a challenge that Chan, Stavins, and Zou (2018, 346) note remains pending.

This module’s data may also usefully inform climate finance efforts; more particularly, climate vulnerability data can help direct climate finance both to areas where resources are urgently needed for mitigation and adaptation and to areas where a lack of data itself may indicate help is needed for better preparedness. Further, climate finance increasingly requires attention to addressing biodiversity loss as an integral component of climate action.

The specific data collected will support specific endeavors: data on endangered, threatened, and vulnerable species will support local, national, regional, and international efforts to halt and repair biodiversity loss. Climate vulnerability data will support the public and the media in understanding and addressing the inequities of climate effects. Similarly, we expect this module to offer important insights regarding the relationship between generating and publishing data about climate vulnerability.

The data this module generates will also provide useful input to ongoing debates around understanding and measuring adaptation to climate change (see, e.g., Dolšak and Prakash 2018, 320; Vardy et al. 2017: 65). Such data will be useful to both policy and academic researchers, particularly as the Barometer, rather than prescribing a specific vision of what adaptation must look like, will gather global examples identified by country-level researchers and validated by regional hubs. The module will likely also provide evidence to revise broader ideas about the relationship between development and adaptive capacity.

Around the world, youth movements are increasingly engaging with climate data. The data this module generates and its focus on how countries’ data practices empower local and domestic actors can support these movements in advocating for practices that support access and action.

Global Relevance

The climate crisis affects every country and addressing the crisis requires global action. By its nature, the climate crisis requires thinking and acting collaboratively beyond boundaries and jurisdictions. At the same time, much of the work of mitigation and adaptation must occur at local levels, making national and sub-national governments key actors for generating and publishing data to support climate action. As with our understanding of climate change itself, much of this data draws from multiple sources. Assembling, integrating, and analyzing such data can be expensive, requiring resources and capacities not all countries have. Consequently, in designing these indicators, we have sought to balance a focus on data that supports a broad range of domestic actors to undertake critical mitigation and adaptation efforts with building on data that is already being reported to international organizations or supported by long-standing data practices.

Module Development Notes

A full background paper is available.