UN Climate Change published a synthesis of climate action ambition as contained in countries’ new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), indicating that nations must redouble their climate efforts if they are to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2C—ideally 1.5C—by the end of the century.
The NDC Synthesis Report covers submissions up to 31 December 2020 and includes new or updated NDCs by 75 Parties, which represent approximately 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these countries increased their levels of ambition to reduce emissions. Nevertheless, the level of ambition communicated through these NDCs indicates that changes in these countries’ total emissions would be small, less than -1%, in 2030 compared to 2010.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by contrast, has indicated that emission reduction ranges to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal should be around -45% in 2030 compared to 2010.
The need to increase ambition is thus high and urgent, as the report demonstrates – despite the fact that the report currently covers less than half of all Parties to the Paris Agreement.
Climate science has made it clear that a deep transformation is needed to achieve the climate goals, and that such transformation must start early and result in deep emission reductions even before 2030.
“We are encouraged by the recent political shift in momentum towards stronger climate action throughout the world, with many countries, including some major emitters, setting net-zero emissions goals by mid-century and global corporations committing to stronger climate action,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, “but this report shows that current levels of climate ambition are not on track to meet our Paris Agreement goals.”
The NDCs are increasingly linked with the longer-term goals or aspirations for achieving carbon neutrality around mid-century. This is encouraging as NDCs can chart a clear course towards countries’ net-zero targets. However, there remains a significant gap between longer-term carbon neutrality and the commitments undertaken in the NDCs, which needs to be addressed.
“It is vitally important that we get more clarity on how countries are planning to fulfil those longer-term commitments”, Ms. Espinosa said. “If we want to stand any chance of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 and embark on the road towards carbon neutrality around mid-century, transformative decisions need to be taken now”, she underlined.
While the report clarifies the pressing need to raise ambition, it also contains some encouraging findings.
The new or updated NDCs submitted in 2020 show that governments take the NDCs and, more broadly, the Paris Agreement seriously, with commitment and responsibility:
- The quality of NDCs, including data on mitigation targets, has clearly increased
- Implementation is addressed much more comprehensively, including linkages to relevant national planning, regulatory and legislative processes as well as to Sustainable Development Goals
Further, a significant number of countries included adaptation in their NDCs and provided information on their climate vulnerabilities and measures to address these. Here too, the quality of the information provided has increased significantly. Approaches for addressing vulnerabilities are becoming more comprehensive, rather than piecemeal.
The synthesis also found that more countries reported on mitigation co-benefits of adaptation action and economic diversification plans. Adaptation actions and economic diversification plans with mitigation co-benefits include climate-smart agriculture, reducing food waste, vertical farming, adapting coastal ecosystems, increasing the share of renewable sources in energy generation, improving energy efficiency, carbon dioxide capture and storage, fuel switch and fuel price reforms in the transport sector, and moving to circular economy for better waste management.
Yet many developing countries remain in urgent need of support to implement climate action. This was also reflected in many of the NDCs, which provided quantitative estimates of financial support needs for NDC implementation.
Climate action must be enabled and facilitated through the provision of adequate support where needed. This is critical and must be addressed also with high propriety and urgency – without adequate resources and access to greener technologies the deep transformation we need will not happen.
Espinosa clarified that this Synthesis Report is a “snapshot, not a full picture” of the NDCs as COVID-19 posed significant challenges for many nations with respect to completing their submissions in 2020. She indicated a second report will be released prior to COP26 in 2021 with the expectation many more nations, specifically major emitters, will be included.
“COP26 is a credibility test for our fight against the climate emergency. By submitting strong NDCs before COP26, countries can raise their ambition and translate their 2050 targets into milestones on the way and turn far-away targets into immediate action”, Ms. Espinosa said.
“COP26 also provides an opportunity for developed nations to deliver their pledge to jointly mobilize $100 billion annually to developing nations. That commitment has not yet been met, resulting in a significant lack of trust amongst Parties. Developing countries need the support for their climate actions that they have been promised”, Espinosa urged.
Additionally, at COP26, countries need to wrap up outstanding negotiation items, including modalities such as the use of markets, raise ambition on adaptation and finance, and bring State and non-State voices together to continue building climate ambition.
More information around the report:
- The Synthesis Report was requested by Parties to the Paris Agreement to measure the progress of national climate action plans — known as NDCs — ahead of COP26 this November in Glasgow.
- NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Each NDC reflects the country’s ambition, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities.
- See the report here.