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6 Early Lessons on Long-Term Climate Strategies

The Paris Agreement on climate change invites countries to communicate “mid-century long-term low GHG emissions development strategies” – long-term strategies for short — by 2020. These strategies are central to limiting warming to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) compared to pre-industrial levels, and they begin to reveal the scale of transformation needed to bring national climate action in line with global ambition. They also play a key role in informing near-term decisions, helping to avoid investments that are incompatible with a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.

Six countries — Benin, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and the United States — have already formally communicated their strategies, paving the way for long-term climate action. New WRI analysis sheds lights on these initial strategies and identifies considerations for countries about to embark on this exercise. Here are six lessons from these early submissions.

1. Set a Long-term Vision and Identify Strategy Objectives

A long-term vision is essential to guide decisions and frame policy priorities. While countries’ long-term visions differ, the six strategies submitted so far are united by common objectives. These include informing near- and long-term planning and investments, presenting main lines of action for low emissions development, and directing policies at national and sector levels.

2. Consider Building on an Existing Strategy

While some countries developed new long-term strategies in response to the Paris Agreement, Benin, France and Mexico submitted existing or updated strategies that were either originally mandated by national laws or developed in response to prior UNFCCC decisions. Building on existing strategies can optimize resources and ensure buy-in by key institutions, among other benefits. At the same time, existing strategies can be subject to certain constraints, depending on how they were initially designed. For example, strategies undertaken before the Paris Agreement may not consider long-term, global goals. Each country will need to weigh these trade-offs.  

3. Engage Stakeholders

All six countries opted to describe stakeholder consultation processes in their strategies. This is important, since the goals of the Paris Agreement imply a profound transformation across key sectors of the economy, with implications for jobs, health and a range of other environmental and developmental considerations. These transformations will happen only with public engagement and support. And the transformative solutions this will require can be fostered by bringing together decision-makers, researchers and other stakeholders.

4. Reflect on Links Between Climate and Development

The six countries envision strong links between their long-term strategies and development priorities. They assert that economic growth and climate action are mutually beneficial and aim to spur sustainable economic transformation. These countries’ long-term strategies focus on development-related themes, including job creation, new investments, planning and sustainable development. Ideally, long-term strategies will integrate development considerations at the start, explicitly informing near-term planning processes and investment decisions.

5. Identify Key Climate Actions

The strategies converge around common mitigation actions, including shifting to clean energy, improving energy efficiency and demand-side management, reducing non-carbon dioxide emissions, changing behavior, moving toward sustainable consumption, carbon pricing, and protecting and enhancing natural carbon sinks. Countries also recognize the inherent synergies and linkages between long-term adaptation and mitigation pathways. While the need to make this transition is not new, the strategies illustrate the scale and pace of transformation necessary to achieve long-term goals. And they  align closely with the mitigation opportunities identified by climate science, which could be a useful starting point for countries that lack modeling capacity or have not yet established a long-term climate goal.

6. Review and Revise

The six countries plan to review and revise their strategies regularly to ensure they keep pace with research and development, innovation and the declining costs of clean technologies. Germany also plans to revise its strategy in line with the five-year cycle of review under the Paris Agreement, thus better aligning near-term policy with the long-term goals.

Looking Ahead

As more countries embark on long-term strategies, the international community stands ready to support them, through the 2050 Pathways Platform, the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, the LEDS Global Partnership and others. WRI and UNDP, in cooperation with UNFCCC, are also developing resources countries can use to create long-term strategies. The road toward integrating a long-term perspective into national policy and planning will be a long one, but achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement depends on getting started right away.

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