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[Spotlight] From climate openness to climate justice

The role of open data to better adapt and be resilient to climate change

NOAA on Unsplash

by Flor Serale, IWG Co-Chair

The March meeting of the Implementation Working Group (IWG) was held for the first time in Spanish and at a different time, in line with the objectives of the 2021 Action Plan to build a diverse space. The theme of the session was data openness for climate justice, and the challenges of opening and using public climate change data.

Fostering collaboration to open up climate change data

The Ministry of Environment of the Government of Uruguay designed its climate change policy in 2015, while in 2017 it generated its first National Determined Contribution (NDC) to report to the United Nations system. At the end of 2019, Uruguay implemented the Open Up Guide for Climate Action with the support of the ODC, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the IADB. This guide contains a series of relevant data types for climate action that responds to a process of consultation and work with the climate change and open data communities, and presents a non-prescriptive list of priority data to be opened in the sector.

The implementation of this guide is a great example of inter-ministerial collaboration to open public data; In this case, the Ministry of the Environment and AGESIC (the agency in charge of opening data in the country) worked together to identify and analyze the degree of openness of the datasets indicated by the guide (20 of the 72 datasets of the Guide had some degree of openness) and co-created a strategy to open more and better data (for example in ​​wastes or climate finance). They also worked together to improve the quality of the data collected and published: for this, individual files per data asset and improvement recommendations were made (dataset format, indexing, metadata, geographic information, among others). As a result, 29 new datasets were opened in the climate change data catalog.

Another of the results of this work was the improvement in the capacities to open and use data. The implementation of the Guide was an opportunity to disseminate the importance of open data and increase the data skills of public institutions. Finally, great efforts were also made to improve the use of information to mitigate the effects of climate change, through the development of visualizations to monitor commitments on climate change and reuse cases together with the data ecosystem.

Uruguay’s visualization of Greenhouse gas emissions

A look into the climate change data ecosystem

Much of the data to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change is generated by sub-national governments. Cities have a fundamental role to collect and open this information and design public policies and resilience strategies. The City of Buenos Aires created a climate change platform outlining its goals for 2030 and 2050, with data and initiatives to co-create a resilient, carbon neutral and inclusive city. This platform combines openness of environmental information and civic-led activities to encourage collective action for cultural change to mitigate climate change.

The climate change data opening process was carried out taking into account the demand and needs of the ecosystem. Through interviews with experts, collaboration between more than 10 public agencies and co-creation exercises and consultation spaces with civil society organizations, datasets and formats were prioritized for this information to be used. These data can also be downloaded from the open data portal BA DATA. As a result, the city already has 30 new datasets, in addition to other resources that were improved. The air quality dataset stands out: it was created by the city neighbours in a participatory project, through with data sensors placed on the city’s public bicycles. It was carried out jointly with the UNDP, the national government, UBA, UNSAM and the University of Cambridge.

Currently, the challenge lies in making this openness strategy sustainable and maintaining a standard of data quality so that it can be effectively used by people.

Visualization of air quality measurement in the GCBA

Building a climate justice agenda

After presenting these two cases, the IWG participants discussed some challenges of the open data agenda on climate change: (1) the need for clear governance to generate and manage this data; (2) working with the private sector to generate data; (3) the opening of quality data.

Finally, to build a climate justice agenda that enables the use of information by specific communities (environmental activists, indigenous population, journalists, etc.) we need to rethink the data agenda beyond openness and think about how we can democratize the use of the data preserving the rights of the people. During the session we heard an inspiring case from Hivos in the Amazon area. This project aims to co-create data and evidence for communication actions, strategic litigation and political advocacy.

New voices at the IWG

We also want to welcome and thank the participation of the governments of the City of Buenos Aires and Yerba Buena (Argentina), Lajo and Guayaquil (Ecuador), and the government of Uruguay, who joined the IWG, which already has the participation from Argentina, New Zealand, Ontario (Canada), Catalonia (Spain) and Uzbekistan. We are happy to involve new governments, connect regions and make exchanges more inclusive. If you are interested to join, send us an email: info@opendatacharter.org.

Other resources of interest:

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