BERT Classification of Paris Agreement Climate Action Plans (Papers Track)

Tom Corringham (Scripps Institution of Oceanography); Daniel Spokoyny (Carnegie Mellon University); Eric Xiao (University of California San Diego); Christopher Cha (University of California San Diego); Colin Lemarchand (University of California San Diego); Mandeep Syal (University of California San Diego); Ethan Olson (University of California San Diego); Alexander Gershunov (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

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As the volume of text-based information on climate policy increases, natural language processing (NLP) tools can distill information from text to better inform decision making on climate policy. We investigate how large pretrained transformers based on the BERT architecture classify sentences on a dataset of climate action plans which countries submitted to the United Nations following the 2015 Paris Agreement. We use the document header structure to assign noisy policy-relevant labels such as mitigation, adaptation, energy, and land use to text elements. Our models provide an improvement in out-of-sample classification over simple heuristics though fall short of the consistency observed between human annotators. We hope to extend this framework to a wider class of textual climate change data such as climate legislation and corporate social responsibility filings and build tools to streamline the extraction of information from these documents for climate change researchers.

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