Last week, Colombia became the first South American country to release its intended nationally determined contribution, or INDC, ahead of the United Nations’ COP21 climate talks in Paris. Most notably, Colombia’s INDC adopts a national, economy-wide emissions reduction target for the first time, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below projected business-as-usual (BAU) emissions by 2030. With international support, this reduction target would increase to 30 percent.
Colombia’s previous international pledge, made in 2009, consisted of a series of mitigation actions instead of a national emissions target. In its new climate plan, the country advances actions such as reaffirming its commitment to reduce deforestation, but within a broader objective to limit overall national emissions. This is an important milestone as developing countries move toward limiting and eventually reducing their emissions to ensure global emissions peak in the near-term and decline dramatically by mid-century.
While Colombia’s target allows emissions to increase by 2030, the INDC estimates Colombia’s emissions will be 268 million tons of CO2-equivalent in 2030 under the new target, compared with 335 million tons of CO2-equivalent under a BAU scenario. The target would also reduce per-capita emissions from 5.8 tons of CO2-equivalent per person under a BAU scenario to 4.6 tons of CO2-equivalent in 2030.
For comparison, in 2010, the country emitted 224 million tons of CO2-equivalent. More than half (58 percent) of national emissions came from agriculture, forestry and other land use, while a third came from the energy sector (due in part to 68 percent of electricity being generated from hydropower). In 2010, Colombia’s total emissions represented 0.46 percent of global emissions.
A Transparent Emissions-Reduction Pledge
Targets relative to BAU scenarios are typically less transparent, more uncertain, and more difficult to track progress toward than other types of targets, such as those relative to emissions in past years. Given this, it’s important Colombia communicated the country’s intended 2030 emissions level in absolute terms (268 million tons of CO2-equivalent), increasing the pledge’s transparency and accountability.
Other countries with targets relative to BAU scenarios should also report intended absolute emissions levels to ensure the UN Climate Change Secretariat can accurately assess and report the aggregate effect of all INDCs compared to global emissions reductions needed to limit warming to below 2°C.
Colombia can further increase its pledge transparency by clarifying whether it intends to keep the BAU scenario fixed for purposes of meeting the target or plans to revise the BAU scenario in the future, which would change the target emissions level for 2030. Any unexpected revision in the BAU scenario would represent a moving target, making it more difficult to enable global aggregation of mitigation efforts and determine whether the world is collectively on track to meet the global 2°C goal.
Clear Goals for Adaptation
Beyond mitigation, Colombia’s INDC also provides a clear and concise “snapshot” of adaptation planning and goals. The INDC draws from Colombia’s National Adaptation Plan, as well as territorial and sectorial plans to outline 10 specific and measurable adaptation action goals through 2030, including strengthening adaptation planning, land protection, water resource management and education to raise awareness.
These goals contribute to Colombia’s stated vision for adaptation of “improving the well-being of the entire population, in territories well-adapted to the climate, all of which will make Colombia a modern, innovative and competitive country globally.” While the INDC states that achieving adaptation goals requires financing, technology transfer and capacity building, it is not specific about the type or amount of additional support needed.
Fairness and Ambition
Colombia’s INDC transparently describes how the country views its climate plan as fair and ambitious by referencing a number of key indicators. It was transparent about its energy consumption (compared to regional and world averages), emissions per capita, total projected emissions under BAU and the INDC, poverty and inequality challenges and climate impact vulnerability.
Like many developing countries, Colombia highlighted the priority of pursuing mitigation actions to also increase resilience and reduce the risk of loss and damage. Colombia is, however, the first country to examine the implications for building peace through climate action in its INDC—highlighting the role climate action can play in consolidating peace in a more equitable manner.
While Colombia recognizes the significance of land use and forestry sectors to its national emissions profile and reaffirms its commitment to reduce deforestation, it doesn’t include the target level or regional or global comparison necessary to provide context for fairness and ambition purposes.
A Path Forward for Developing Nations
All nations must submit their INDCs by October 1st in order to be included in the synthesis report on their aggregate effect before COP21 opens, with many developing nations expected to announce their pledges in the next few weeks.
As nations put the finishing touches on their pledges, they should consider the positive elements of Colombia’s on transparency, adaptation and fairness to help ensure success in December.