Amid the proliferation of data related to climate change, the international statistical community has called at COP28 for greater coordination to improve statistics, address persistent gaps, and to fully leverage existing data systems for urgent climate action. This, as stressed in discussions convened by UNECE and partners, is crucial to produce reliable, coherent and accessible data for reporting, policymaking, and informing the public.
Quality data is a key basis for informed decision making on climate action, transparency - particularly the Paris Agreement’s Enhanced Transparency Framework - and accountability, which together trigger better finance.
“In 2023, no actor in the public or private sector can say they’re not reducing their emissions or are waiting to implement adaptation measures because they lack data to substantiate action! Science, backed by available data, is clear enough: we cannot wait longer”, declared UNECE Executive Secretary Tatiana Molcean. “However, to sharpen policy responses we do need data on links between emissions and our economic activities; about mitigation and adaptation actions, their effects on the economy and society.”
Indeed, huge amounts of data are already available and produced by many stakeholders including national statistical offices. However, concerted efforts will be needed to better link data producers and users to increase understanding of what is already there, and to ensure that data produced are policy-relevant, and gaps are being addressed.
To this end, UNECE has played a leading role over the last decade in working with national statistical offices through the Conference of European Statisticians to address information needs related to climate change, including developing the first ever internationally agreed Recommendations on official statistics in this domain, and the first internationally agreed Set of Core Climate Change-Related Statistics and Indicators (2020). This also contributed to the development of the Global Set of Climate Change Statistics and Indicators adopted in March 2022 by the UN Statistical Commission. Implementation of these sets can contribute significantly to meeting reporting requirements of the Paris Agreement and the Enhanced Transparency Framework.
For example, in the UNECE region, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg (2019 and 2021), Slovenia, Switzerland have published indicator sets based on the CES guidelines. Prioritizing the core set of indicators using the same definitions and methodologies is crucial to build up internationally comparable data.
On the other hand, many data needs will remain specific to national or even local circumstances, so national statistical offices need to have the capacity, resources and understanding of the policy context to address them. This is why platforms for collective deliberations over methodological challenges, sharing innovations and exchanging experience like the annual UNECE Expert Fora for Producers and Users of Climate Change-Related Statistics continue to play a crucial role.
Bridging the gap between producers and users is important both internationally and nationally, as policy users are often not fully aware of all the data that is already available. Now, a dedicated UNECE Task Force is finalizing Guidance on the role of national statistical offices in achieving national climate objectives, which will showcase what statistical systems already offer to support climate action, across a broad range of topics from data for reporting under the Paris agreement through national policymaking on mitigation, adaptation and just transition, to informing the public.
Presenting this work, Mr. Otto Swertz, Statistics Netherlands, Chair of the Task Force, stated “National statistical offices are the backbone of information systems of democratic societies Now, they have a key role in ensuring the availability of policy-relevant, timely, coherent and easily accessible statistics and data required for an effective, inclusive and transparent climate action. It is our vision that such statistics will become as commonly produced and referred to as data on GDP or unemployment.”
For example, NSOs produce a lot of statistics that can be used to inform or monitor actions needed to implement the nationally determined contributions. To monitor the energy transition, we need more than data on emissions and energy, but also on enablers of such transition at all levels, such as on infrastructure, green jobs, critical raw materials, expenditure or even people’s perceptions and behaviours.
Also important are complementary approaches to measuring greenhouse gas emissions, which help to link GHG emissions with economic activities and production and consumption patterns, such as carbon footprints. For adaptation, we need granular and localized socioeconomic data, including on vulnerable populations, housing and infrastructure, but also new statistics such as on health impacts of climate change. New and granular statistics and indicators are also needed to assess the impact of climate policies on different population groups, household types or regions, for example energy poverty indicators, which is crucial for just transition. Such statistics can be produced thanks to linking environmental or economic data with social data available at National Statistical Offices.
The discussions emphasized the need for a comprehensive conception of climate change-related data, covering not only emissions and temperatures, but also infrastructure, jobs, sustainable energy investments, health, impacts on water and biodiversity; mitigation efforts and much more. They also emphasized the role of data for good governance, and the need to engage with communities.
Albert Kroese, Chief Statistician at the IMF, highlighted that credible and comparable data are critical to better understand the economic and financial implications of climate change. Addressing data gaps will increase the availability of emissions data, energy data, climate finance data, data on risks and climate mitigation and expenditure data – all of which are needed for developing and monitoring mitigation, adaptation and transition policies.”
The exchanges also highlighted the need for stronger partnerships and international coordination between policy domains, research institutes and data producers to increase coherence, international comparability and to prioritize efforts.
For more information:
Leaflet about the Guidance: https://unece.org/statistics/documents/2023/12/informal-documents/snapshot-draft-guidance-role-nsos-achieving
Tools and resources from UN Regional Commissions and the UN Statistical Division: https://unece.org/COP28-resources-and-tools-statistics-climate-action
Note to editors
About the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics
The Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics were first developed by the UNECE Conference of European Statisticians, the highest statistical decision-making body in the region, in 1992. In 2014 they became a General Assembly-endorsed global standard.
The 10 principles cover:
Relevance, impartiality and equal access
Prevention of misuse
International statistical cooperation.
Photo credit: UNFCCC