Goal: Limit global warming to 1.5–2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, work toward sustainable development and synchronize finance with these goals
Origin story: Representatives of 196 state parties came together at 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) near Paris and adopted the Paris Agreement as a global effort to tackle climate change. Within the Agreement as a whole, each country must determine, plan and report on a contribution – its NDC – to mitigate global warming.
Article 4, paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement states: “Each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.”
Current status: The year after the Paris Agreement was signed, the NDC Partnership was formed to bring countries together with technical and financial partners to assist in achieving contributions. Yet NDCs are entirely country-driven and were not designed to be static or enforced. As such, they are open to continuous change and review – such as US President Donald Trump stating intentions to withdraw. In 2020, all parties will have the chance to update their NDCs.
Among the other commitments: The NDCs are implicitly linked to most other commitments, and particularly other country-led commitments such as AFR100 and Initiative 20×20; countries’ restoration targets under these commitments often overlap with their NDCs. The only explicit reference to the NDCs in another major commitment, though, is in Goal 7 of the New York Declaration on Forests: “Reduce emissions in accordance with the post-2020 global climate agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.”
Progress reports: The UNFCCC is in the process of developing the Paris Rulebook, which will standardize processes for monitoring and evaluation in an aim to provide more clarity on progress. Externally, the Climate Action Tracker was created in 2009 by three independent researching organizations – Climate Analytics, NewClimate Institute and Ecofys – as a way to track how far countries have come on mitigation commitments, shedding light on their NDC progress.
Words from experts: Andrew Wu, Taryn Fransen, Sean DeWitt and James Anderson, World Resources Institute
On successes so far
“On the plus side, the NDC Partnership has found that countries are increasingly integrating their NDCs into society-wide planning and development. Whereas NDCs were initially relegated to departments of environment or climate with limited financial or political power, governments are increasingly involving more stakeholder groups and integrating NDCs with development agendas and domestic budgeting and planning. These are crucial steps toward developing a robust project pipeline.”
“Through our work, one of the themes that has emerged is the challenge of accelerating climate finance flows at a pace needed to meet our climate goals. For many developing countries, it can be challenging to develop a large pipeline of bankable climate projects – projects with demonstrable climate benefits and robust monitoring systems of sufficient scale to absorb large sums of capital – needed for investment by donor countries. The reasons are numerous and varied, from the misalignment of market incentives to high perceptions of risk, but they have the net effect of creating a significant finance gap.
“It’s worth noting that issues are present at the supply side as well; our colleagues at the NDC Partnership have found through their experience that, even when developing countries have a pipeline of bankable projects, the long time for project approval for many climate funds (see page 26 of this report on the financial barriers for restoration) creates a significant burden for developing countries. To match the pace of our climate mitigation needs, donor countries should take a hard look at streamlining implementation and finance processes in a way that is efficient yet robust.”
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