Transparent climate reporting in Malawi: what’s needed, what’s next?

The Paris Agreement’s transparency guidelines allow least developed countries extra time and support to meet new climate reporting criteria, but meet it they must. Yamikani Idriss describes Malawi’s progress to date and support still needed.

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Insight by 
Yamikani Idriss
Yamikani Idriss is a junior climate change negotiator for the government of Malawi
03 October 2019
A women farmer tends crops on a dried river pond

A Malawian farmer tends crops on a dried river pond (Photo: Asafu Chijere/WorldFish)

Four years on from the Paris Agreement, every nation should be planning to meet the rigorous reporting requirements of the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF), coming into force from 2024.

Even with allowances for limited resources, least developed countries (LDCs) like mine must also begin working towards strong implementation of the framework, reflecting on our country contexts and identifying steps we must take to report transparently by 2024 and beyond.

Countdown from Katowice

COP24’s ‘Katowice Climate Package’ contains the essential procedures and mechanisms to make the Paris Agreement operational. This includes common modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs) for the ETF, which advises countries how they must report on progress towards mitigating and adapting to climate change, loss and damage and climate finance.

The ‘backbone’ of the Paris Agreement, the ETF was created to track countries’ efforts to meet its ambitious goals. Requiring countries to report every two years and providing a system to review these reports, the ETF will be a crucial tool to ensure the agreement is met and to build confidence between countries. 

Owing to special circumstances – such as limited capacities and resources, and existing climate challenges – the LDCs have some added flexibility to meet ETF standards.

But this isn’t long to assess our national capacity, gaps and the support we will need to build self-sustained institutional arrangements; or to set up reporting infrastructure and build expertise.

Challenges of the new transparency rules

Like all LDCs, Malawi is committed to the UNFCCC’s current reporting requirements. We have produced two national communications and a national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory; we are preparing our first Biennial Update Report – a milestone for our country.  

But despite this progress, we face challenges. For example, in preparing GHG national inventories, Malawi lacks in-country expertise, complete sets of data and country-specific emission factors in most sectors. Overall, methods are not well enough documented. We have trouble retaining the national capacity and expertise developed during the preparation of national communications.

Malawi also lacks the capacity and tools to efficiently track support for and progress in mitigation and adaptation measures. Although specific reporting on adaptation is not mandatory under the ETF, it is important that parties make efforts to do so, to promote transparency and trust between nations.

Seeing clearly: vital steps already taken

To effectively implement the framework, LDCs will benefit first and foremost from setting up practical and robust mechanisms to strengthen institutional arrangements and national capacity.

For instance, carrying out GHG inventories and tracking progress towards Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will require:

  • An operational data management system
  • Training in-country GHG inventory compilers
  • Developing local emission factors
  • Fostering public and private sector engagement, and
  • Feveloping robust M&E frameworks, with measurable indicators to track progress towards mitigation and adaptation goals.

Malawi is being proactive, setting up structures for lasting and sustainable results. For example, prompted by the ETF, we are working on:

A National Climate Change Fund: Malawi’s Environmental Affairs Department, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and others, is creating a fund that can better track climate finance, both received and required. 

A GHG Inventory System (GHG-IS): with support from USAID, we’ve set up GHG focal points from important sectors and created the GHS-IS. This system (a set of guidance and reporting documents and calculators) will allow Malawi to annually assess our emissions across sectors. Following IPCC methodology, developing this system has established the procedures and data sources needed for a complete and centrally co-ordinated inventory.

Support needed to cement strong start

However, all the new systems have a potential weakness: they are project-based, when strengthening our national capacity and institutional arrangements should ideally be approached as a long-term goal.

We still need consolidated efforts to ensure these systems are operational and helpful in the long run. This can be achieved through capacity building and setting up permanent multi-stakeholder structures for implementation. For example, to report support received under the ETF, national accounting mechanisms must be developed to capture what is actually coming into the country as climate finance. 

We need support to do this. Malawi has submitted a project proposal to the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency, which backs capacity building programmes to establish national finance tracking systems, among other mechanisms to implement the ETF.     

If our proposal is approved and other support from developed nations and organisations is forthcoming, we believe we can be able to strengthen our national ability to report to the new standards.

Stronger reporting fuels national development

Meeting the ETF criteria is an opportunity for developing countries to benefit far beyond ‘better reporting’.

Gains could include formation and operation of well-informed and measurable policies; stronger cross-sector collaboration; and enhanced accountability as results are visible both nationally and internationally.

I urge LDCs to start taking steps towards ETF compliance straight away. In the long run, the benefits will enhance climate action and reduce our people’s vulnerability to climate change.

About the author

Yamikani Idriss is a junior climate change negotiator for the government of Malawi

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