Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability: Assessing the Links

Transparency is one of the most widely touted concepts of our age, resonating across diverse global policy domains, including in the realm of sustainability. The driving force behind a transparency turn in global environmental governance is the unwavering belief in its potential to foster more accountable, democratic and effective sustainability actions and outcomes. Yet does transparency fulfil these promises? This project explores whether transparency is indeed a transformative force, including in climate governance.

This staff project has explored, since 2008, whether and in what ways transparency is indeed a transformative force in global sustainability governance. In close collaboration with Michael Mason of the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well as Harro van Asselt and many other colleagues, Aarti Gupta’s research has explored transparency’s transformative potential in realizing more accountable and effective climate and sustainability governance outcomes.
Sub-topics and empirical foci include, inter alia:

  • Assessing the role of transparency in global governance of the safe transboundary transfer and use of genetically modified organisms in food
  • Assessing the role of transparency in realizing more accountable and equitable multilateral climate governance outcomes
  • Analysing monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems as sites of political conflict, including carbon accounting systems for land-sector emissions

For latest research on this theme, please also see the newly launched TRANSGOV project on transparency in climate governance, which will run from 2020 – 2024.

    An International Conference on Transparency and Sustainability was held at Wageningen in June 2016:

    Disclosing Sustainability: The Transformative Power of Transparency?

    Visit the website of the conference (including programme and videos); Click here

    Research Outputs:

    Special Section on ‘Transparency and Sustainability’ (Guest edited by Aarti Gupta, Ingrid Boas and Peter Oosterveer) Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, 2020.

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    Introductory article in special section:
    Gupta, Aarti, Ingrid Boas and Peter Oosteveer, Transparency in Global Sustainability Governance: To what effect? Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, 22, 1, 84-97. Open access, available here.

    Gupta, Aarti, and Harro van Asselt. 2017.Transparency in multilateral climate politics: Furthering (or distracting from) accountability? Regulation & Governance, doi: 10.1111/rego.12159. Available here

    Dooley, Kate, and Aarti Gupta. 2016. Governing by Expertise: the Contested Politics of (Accounting for) Land-Based Mitigation in a New Climate Agreement. International Environmental Agreements. Open Access, available here.

    Gupta, Aarti and Michael Mason. 2016 Disclosing or Obscuring: the Politics of Transparency in Global Climate Governance, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 18: 82-90. Available here

    Click here for a profile of this article as a research highlight by Nature Climate Change

    Gupta, Aarti, and Michael Mason. 2015. Transparency (Making climate governance visible: the transformative potential of transparency?) Research Handbook of Climate Governance, edited by Karen Bäckstrand and Eva Lövbrand, pp. 446-457. Edward Elgar.

    Gupta, Aarti, Till Pistorius and Marjanneke J. Vijge. 2016. Managing Fragmentation in Global Environmental Governance: the REDD+ Partnership as Bridge Organization. International Environmental Agreements, 16, 3, 355–374. Open Access, available here.


    Gupta, Aarti, Marjanneke J. Vijge, Esther Turnhout, and Till Pistorius. 2014. Making REDD+ Transparent: the Politics of Measuring, Reporting and Verification systems. In Transparency in Global Environmental Governance: Critical Perspectives, edited by Aarti Gupta and Michael Mason, pp. 181-201. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press

    Gupta, Aarti, Eva Lövbrand, Esther Turnhout and Marjanneke Vijge, 2012. In Pursuit of Carbon Accountability: the Politics of REDD+ Measuring, Reporting and Verification Systems. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4, 6: 726-731. Available here

    Biermann, Frank, and Aarti Gupta. 2011. Accountability and Legitimacy in Earth System Governance: a Research Framework. Ecological Economics, 70, 11:1856-1864. Available here