Joining Two Global Movements: Open Data and Climate Action

01/12/2017 10:57 pm ET

The global movement to address climate change has always been driven by data. Decades of data on temperature, carbon dioxide levels, ice melt, and other environmental factors have shaped our understanding of climate risks and their urgency. Climate data has fueled scientific models that prompted national commitments from the Kyoto Protocol in 1992 to the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21).

Just as data has spurred the world to act on climate change, it has also driven the strategies countries are using to address it. Models and analysis using this data are shaping strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Because climate change is a global crisis with deep social, economic, political, and cultural ramifications, this data must be made open to the public, ensuring transparency and accountability, and allowing businesses and nonprofit organizations to help drive climate action.

There is now a historic opportunity to bring the international movement for addressing climate change together with the open data movement. The open data movement is a growing global effort to make more government, scientific, and private-sector data available for anyone to access and use, without restrictions. It includes entrepreneurs, government leaders, research scientists, transparency advocates, and others who see open data as an essential resource for meeting their goals.

Many sectors are using open data as a vital resource to address climate change. For instance, energy companies such as SolarCensus in the United States and REConnect in India analyze geospatial data to maximize the potential for solar and wind power. City planners and Chief Resilience Officers act on data on extreme weather events, sea level rise, and inadequate infrastructure to ensure their communities are more resilient and responsive. The Paris Agreement also requires countries to provide open data on how they are meeting their climate goals so the world can track their progress. Greater access to better and more timely data will fuel even more approaches to addressing climate change.

Paris One Year Later

The worlds of climate action and open data came together last month in Paris at the fourth Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit. Representatives from 70 countries attended the Summit to advance the open government agenda: transparency, civic participation, and access to information. The Summit was a timely opportunity for open data and climate advocates to meet one year after COP21. During the week of the OGP Summit:

  • The Access Initiative held its sixth Global Gathering, "Open Government for Climate Action." The Gathering brought together over 100 leaders from climate, open data, and open government civil society organizations. Throughout the two-day conference, participants led small group discussions to develop practical next steps. Sessions focused on leveraging the OGP process and building capacity to create climate actions for achieving the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)—the long-term commitments that countries publicly committed to take under the Paris Agreement. Learn more about the Global Gathering here.
  • The Open Data Institute and Open North announced a new report with case studies on topics such as healthcare, crisis management, and crowdsourcing solutions to demonstrate proven strategies that improve climate resilience in cities. The report drew on interviews with members of the urban resilience and open data communities. Click here to learn more about the report.
  • The Government of France and the World Resources Institute (WRI), the current co-chairs of OGP, held a high-level panel session to discuss “Accelerating Climate Action through Open Government.” Manish Bapna, WRI’s Executive Vice President and Managing Director, noted that few people have straddled the worlds of climate and open government and described why it is so important to bring these groups together. Learn more about the panel and speakers here.
  • The Center for Open Data Enterprise and the Government of Mexico coordinated a session on “Addressing Climate Change with Open Data.” This workshop encouraged government officials and nonprofit leaders to identify the core data that are most relevant to climate action strategies, find reliable global sources of climate data, and learn how climate-relevant data is being used around the world. Learn more about the session here.

A Data Resource for Climate Action

During our workshop the Center for Open Data Enterprise and WRI gave presentations on a new project: the Climate Change Open Data Package, which we are developing in partnership with the International Open Data Charter and with support from the International Development Research Centre. The Charter’s Open Data Packages are resources that help stakeholders address challenges with open data, sector by sector. The Packages are developed with public input and extensive review. The first Package, which focused on Agriculture, was released during the OGP Summit (learn more).

The Climate Change Open Data Package will be an international resource to improve the climate open data ecosystem and ensure the effectiveness and transparency of climate data. It will identify core data and use cases that are most relevant for climate strategies and will provide information on the collection and publication of these datasets. The Package will also enable communities to track the source, allocation and impact of climate finance to promote transparency and accountability. It will also aim to help make climate data from various sources consistent and comparable, and will identify common data standards that governments can implement.

The Climate Change Open Data Package will include data that are central to climate change:

  • Verification: Developing models for collecting and publishing datasets that measure progress against the goals set by the Paris Agreement.
  • Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions: Using new data and analysis to support better energy planning to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Adaptation, resilience, and responding to climate impacts: Gathering and managing data to help countries, cities, and communities become more resilient to extreme weather, rising seas, and the new normal of a changing climate.
  • Climate finance: Tracking the financing of climate resilience and mitigation efforts from donor and recipient countries and institutions.

Strategic, data-driven decision-making is essential to achieve the national commitments in the Paris Agreement, and the Climate Change Open Data Package will be a key resource to support that work. If you are interested in learning more about the Package, giving your input on the use of climate data, or being a part of the review process, please contact Katherine at: katherine@odenterprise.org.

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