From Transparency to State Behaviour Change: Exploring Causal Pathways under the International Climate Regime

Romain Weikmans, Harro van Asselt, Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb, Antto Vihma

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


Transparency – in the form of reporting information on climate ambition and action, and a review of this information – has become a backbone of the international climate change regime. While reporting and review have been part of the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since its inception, pronounced emphasis was placed on transparency in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Under the Paris Agreement, transparency explicitly aims at building mutual trust and confidence, and at promoting effective implementation. Various observers also underscore that transparency can lead to increased climate ambition and greater accountability. Little, however, is known about whether and how transparency arrangements bring about these desired procedural and substantive effects.

Several theoretical pathways have been suggested in the International Relations literature as possible mechanisms through which transparency can induce state behaviour change. These include state-to-state learning, shaming and faming, domestic mobilisation and socialisation. These various pathways often rely on specific conditions. They are linked for example to the robustness of transparency arrangements; state compliance towards transparency rules; the existence of domestic accountability mechanisms; or the extent to which “transparency intermediaries” improve the actionability of disclosed information for a variety of stakeholders such as civil society organizations and the media.

In this paper, we examine the extent to which these theoretical pathways materialize in the international climate regime. To do so, we review the academic and grey literatures to find examples and case studies of how these pathways work in practice. Beyond these specific illustrations, we are also interested in understanding which of the conditions highlighted by scholars for the pathways between transparency and state behaviour change to work are met (or not) in the international climate regime.

The paper will highlight empirical gaps that need to be addressed by future research to better understand under which conditions transparency produces which effects. It will also provide insights into the kind of transparency arrangements and overarching conditions that are needed to ensure that the Paris Agreement’s catalytic model of governance achieves its ambitious objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Event2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance: Governing accelerated transitions: justice, creativity, and power in a transforming world - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 20 Oct 202224 Oct 2022


Conference2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance


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