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How Can Countries Deliver on National Climate Plans? 4 Things to Know

One year ago marked a milestone in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement on climate change, as Parties rushed to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UN climate change secretariat. These INDCs (now NDCs, as countries have ratified the Agreement) laid out countries’ plans to reduce emissions domestically and contribute to the objectives of the Agreement, with 163 Parties submitting plans.

As countries now prepare for the upcoming meetings in Marrakech this month, both COP22 as well as the very first meeting of the Parties under the Paris Agreement (CMA1), it is an opportune moment to look back at the progress countries have made towards implementing their NDCs, and what more needs to be done.

The Open Climate Network looked at G20 countries’ implementation of emissions-reduction targets over the past year, and began in-depth analysis to identify pathways for implementing INDCs in several focus countries. Four trends came to light:

First, encouragingly, all of the world’s largest economies (G20 countries) have taken action since Paris to advance mitigation objectives. For example, India has set ambitious year-on-year solar capacity targets in support of its goal to increase solar capacity to 100GW by 2022, China placed environmental stewardship at the center of its 13th Five-Year Plan, and Indonesia committed to restore 2 million hectares of peatland and prevent peat fires, its highest source of emissions in recent years.

Second, policy options are available for countries to implement even relatively ambitious mitigation targets. Analysis published last year by WRI demonstrated that the United States can meet its goal to reduce GHG emissions 26-28 percent by 2025 by exercising options available under existing policies. A similar analysis of Mexico City put forward policies under which Mexico can achieve its target to reduce GHG emissions by 22 percent by 2030 relative to a baseline scenario, as well as by 36 percent by the same year subject to certain conditions.

Moreover, in many cases, there is potential for countries to go beyond their NDC targets. China, for example, has committed to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030, and many experts now believe it will peak significantly earlier. Our analysis finds that in addition to meeting or exceeding its CO2 target, China can also reduce emissions of non-CO2 gases by nearly 30 percent by 2030 by scaling up its existing approaches, such as limiting coal-bed methane emissions.

That’s a good thing, because the initial round of INDC mitigation targets were not sufficiently ambitious to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. It’s imperative that countries start to take a long-term view towards decarbonizing the economy, which must occur by around the middle of the century to meet the Paris goals. Absent this focus, there is a risk that countries will lock in high-emitting technologies or development strategies.

Finally, governance and institutional arrangements must be significantly improved in order for countries to achieve their goals. Ambitious action will require coordination across all levels of government and all sectors of the economy. Working within silos – for example, when climate change is perceived to be an issue that needs to be tackled only by environment ministries, while energy, transport and other ministries proceed as usual – is no longer an option. Multilateral and regional partnerships can also play a key role.

This high-level view of progress made on G20 countries’ NDCs thus far draws from a new body of work being released through the fall and winter. Read the overview of the work, NDCs One Year On, to learn more about the trends that came to light through this analysis. Looking ahead, the Open Climate Network will continue to work with partners to analyze specific countries’ options for implementing and enhancing NDC mitigation targets, and track progress towards achieving them. Stay tuned for deep dive analyses of the implementation trajectories in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, which together comprise 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

cop22, NDC, climate

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