In order to discuss what the main challenges are for Georgia to meet the Enhanced Transparency requirements, it is necessary to make a distinction between national and local M&R systems, and between data for inventory M&R and for M&R of mitigation actions. For the latter category, many of our respondents distinguished between measuring effects on emissions and the sustainable development effects. We will start out with the local perspective and ask what the main challenges are for the existing local system and for integrating the local system with the national system. Then, we will ask what the main challenges are to improve institutional set-up and M&R procedures at the national level.
3.3.1. Challenges for Local M&R Systems in Georgia
Based on insights from the three selected schools and Resource Centers, it would be obvious for the government, or for a project such as the Georgian Energy Efficiency Project, to integrate their local mitigation action M&R with the system that is already in place. However, there are key challenges to overcome before such integration is possible. First, the reports from the three public schools do not contain all the data needed to track the performance of the mitigation action as required in the Modalities, Procedures and Guidelines, such as data on sustainable development effects and, depending on the chosen methodology, the data needed for measuring and reporting emissions. It will therefore be necessary to improve data availability and expand it.
Second, it is a challenge that there are currently no indicators or procedures for measuring mitigation activities and their development effects. For instance, the three school leaders interviewed all considered large temperature variations throughout the day and year as a major challenge for pupils and teachers. Possible development indicators for schools could therefore include, e.g., large variations in indoor climate conditions and temperature, which are potentially impacting pupils’ health and learning abilities and the general quality of education. However, neither local utility bills nor other reports made by the schools contain this kind of information, and the school leaders informed us, that equipment, such as thermometers, is currently not available at their schools.
Third, it is likely that the schools will have to establish new M&R procedures anyway. Moreover, the schools may have to obtain new competences and procure new equipment, such as thermometers, hydrometers and indoor CO2 meters (depending on methodologies chosen), and they may need to establish new measurement procedures. Our interviews indicated that although school leaders and Resource Centers are aware of many of the social and economic problems, such as the lack of energy supply and proper building conditions, they are not yet aware of the UNFCCC and Enhanced Transparency Framework requirements. Hence, awareness raising on M&R, especially on the related benefits of the renovations, could be part of such a program.
Fourth, data collection and reporting currently occur ad hoc and only if the Resource Centers request it. There is also no formal or systematized communication of data from the public schools or the Regional Centers to the Ministry of Environment, which is responsible for the national M&R system. Nor is there communication about such data from the Resource Centers or the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, which is responsible for energy efficiencies. Therefore, there is a need for improved channels of communication between the different administrative levels.
Finally, the M&R expert respondent said that, according to her experience, data from schools and other public buildings in many other places are unavailable and of poor quality. She noted that she had experienced how some regions did not have inventories of the buildings they owned. Our results with regard to data availability therefore may give an overly positive picture of this local system as an option.
In conclusion, it could be an option to integrate the existing local systems for M&R into an enhanced national M&R system. For this to succeed, however, there are several challenges to overcome at both local and national levels. The following provides a closer look at what the challenges are for (improving) the National M&R system, from the perspective of the key respondents.
3.3.2. Challenges for (Improving) the National M&R System in Georgia
As previously indicated, a main challenge for the National M&R system is that many of its planned elements are not yet in place, and that this is a problem in particular for mitigation action M&R. Furthermore, it is not always possible for the Ministry of Environment to collect the necessary data, and when possible, measuring is ad hoc and reporting delayed. Respondents from the ministries pointed to three closely interrelated additional types of challenges for (improving) Georgia’s National M&R system: government and donors prioritize other activities because M&R is not domestically regulated;, new demands tend to be complex and there is limited national capacity to meet these demands; and politicians, government staff, and donors give insufficient attention to, and lack the motivation for, M&R.
With regard to the lack of domestic regulation, the respondents from the ministries, as well as the M&R expert explained that resources are scarce for which reason there is a need to prioritize between different activities. Since the collection of data is not compulsory outside the Ministry of Environment, they often prioritize other activities. The Ministry of Environment therefore suggested that a domestic legal framework for M&R would be “a necessary first step for the government” to meet its obligations under the Enhanced Framework. This would initiate M&R activities and ease decision-making on M&R at lower levels of the government system. Such a framework should include a demand for M&R of mitigation actions as a mandatory element of any climate relevant project. The M&R expert added that making M&R an indispensable government requirement would have the advantage of raising awareness about M&R among other parties/stakeholders.
The respondents at the ministry level regarded M&R of mitigation actions as a very complicated task. For instance, the Ministry of Environment respondent said:
“downscaling these requirements to project levels and being able to make these projects and measurements/reports feed into the international system will be very difficult […] because different mitigation actions require different solutions, and therefore there is no ‘one fit solution’ for monitoring mitigation projects which makes it very complicated”.
Likewise, the M&R expert pointed to the challenge of developing indicators and methods that can meet international requirements and simultaneously are relevant and adapted to local conditions. This includes measuring the sustainable development outcomes of different local facilities, such as public schools, nursing homes, and municipal offices, each with different purposes and development outcomes.
The respondents argued that there are not enough human resources in government to meet the reporting requirements. Thus, the Ministry of Environment emphasized that there are internationally trained and skilled people in place in the Ministry, who can compile and analyze data and report timely to UNFCCC. However, they get new tasks all the time, and the relevant office is understaffed. Furthermore, the government staff needs training in how to develop indicators and procedures for meeting the complicated transparency requirements (M&R expert). The Ministry of Environment pointed to “bottle-necks in the system” that arise when local facilities such as public schools are requested to measure the impacts of emission reductions and sustainable development effects, because “they do not have the necessary skills and capacity.” The GEOSTAT respondent argued that, in general, the Ministry of Environment has good ecologists but that they “lack expertise for handling the kind of statistics required both for inventory reports and mitigation actions.” According to Mdivani and Hoppe (2016) [19
], the paucity of experience and know-how at the government level in Georgia has been a challenge to climate change policies for years.
Most of the respondents explained that the government and donors have no focus on M&R. The Ministry of Environment respondent mentioned the agricultural sector as an example:
“In the agricultural sector we have a relatively fixed number of cattle. To calculate emissions from cattle, we use default emissions, but this method cannot measure if we change the fodder and thereby cause less methane emissions. The main reason is the lack of focus on this kind of changes and that nobody require that we measure it. Therefore, we have a general overall picture of Georgia’s emissions but very limited insights in the details”.
The M&R expert added that donor-funded energy efficiency projects do not integrate concerns about M&R in their portfolios either. The Georgian Energy Efficiency Project’s Feasibility Study and Energy Assessments of the three schools is a good example of this, since it has limited attention to M&R. The likely reason is that this project, much like many other government and donor-supported energy efficiency programs, has other priorities in addition to reducing emissions, and that the stakeholders are not used to considering mainstreaming M&R of mitigation actions and effects.
The respondents explained that this is mainly due to a lack of motivation among the key stakeholders. Thus, the M&R expert explained that government “is currently resistant to take responsibility on the issue. It considers M&R as a cost heavy activity that limits development.” Further, he stated that if government perceives M&R in this way, then “no one will [feel motivated to] do M&R.” Along similar lines, the Ministry of Environment talked about M&R of sustainable development effects as a “headache” due to its complicated nature (“M&R of mitigation actions […] will be high priority when we have to start tracking NDC-implementation. However since this is not until 2021, we will postpone the headache” (Ministry of Environment 2019)).
The respondents from the Ministries and the expert were aware of some of the benefits coming more or less directly from M&R. Thus, the M&R respondent considered M&R a useful tool for the government to learn whether the domestic actions they take are efficient. To this, the Ministry of Environment added:
“We know that it is necessary to get this system running and we want to track several co- benefits of these projects. We would be able to tell if, for example, health, air quality and other aspects related to the Sustainable Development Goals are improved. But also for the quality of inventories and in cases where our own ministries ask for indicator benefits”
Nevertheless, the Ministry of Environment found that the main incentive for Georgia’s M&R was that “we want to participate in the international climate policies and we can use it to attract technologies and funding to Georgia”. If so, there is a “chicken-and -egg” situation, where politicians and government staff see the theoretical benefits of M&R but do not prioritize it because they consider it a burden in terms of work and funding. For the same reason, they have not yet conducted any analysis of how M&R can contribute to highlighting the co-benefits that are specific to Georgia (M&R expert, 2019, and Ministry of Environment, 2019). Again, this points towards a need for stronger political motivation and support for M&R.
In conclusion, the lack of domestically regulated M&R means that the government staff and donors do not conduct M&R as it is not mandated nationally. Therefore, they prioritize other issues. Additionally, downscaling the Enhanced Transparency requirements to mitigation project level is difficult, especially taking into account that Georgia is still a relatively young democracy that is in the process of building solid, efficient institutions [19
]. Combined with limited national capacity, M&R becomes a burden rather than a benefit because neither donors nor government require M&R and there are no budgets for it. This results in a lack of focus on and motivation for conducting M&R among government staff, politicians, and donors.