What is a Long-term Strategy?

Under the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).  The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C underscores the difference that a half-degree can make to the world’s ecosystems.  To have a likely chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C, the world’s top climate scientists say that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero soon after 2050.

Parties’ “mid-century long-term low GHG emissions development strategies” or “long-term strategies” are central to achieving the goal of reaching net-zero global emissions, limiting warming, and preventing some of the worst impacts of climate change. Indeed, long-term strategies play a key role in the transition toward net-zero emissions and climate resilient economies. These strategies set out long-term goals for climate and development and direct short-term decision-making to support the necessary shifts to limit global warming and lift people out of poverty.

WRI’s Climate Watch platform tracks and analyzes long-term strategy submissions.

Why Are Long-Term Strategies Needed?

Ambitious long-term strategies are vital since current near-term national climate plans (NDCs) are only sufficient enough to limit warming to 2.7-3.7 degrees C (4.9-6.7 degrees F). Moreover, long-term strategies provide a pathway to a whole-of-society transformation and a vital link between shorter-term NDCs and the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement. And, because of the 30-year time horizon, these strategies offer many other benefits, including guiding countries to avoid costly investments in high-emissions technologies, supporting just and equitable transitions, promoting technological innovation, planning for new sustainable infrastructure in light of future climate risks, and sending early and predictable signals to investors about envisaged long-term societal changes.

Read more: Climate Action for Today and Tomorrow: The Relationship between NDCs and LTSs

What Are the Key Elements of Long-Term Strategies?

The scope and depth of long-term strategies are determined by countries. Indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all format or structure. However, some common elements of such strategies include:

  • a long-term vision;
  • sustainable development considerations;
  • mitigation elements (including a long-term quantified outcome for GHG emissions reductions and results of mitigation models and scenarios);
  • adaptation elements;
  • sectoral strategies (including policies and actions, milestones to be achieved over time, information on managing the transition to the long-term goals, among others);
  • implementation approaches;
  • and monitoring plans and revision processes.

When these elements are considered together, countries can evaluate tradeoffs among them and ensure that all are supported in the long-term strategy.

Read More: How Long-Term Visions for Climate Can Advance the G20 Economic Agenda

What Are Important Considerations for the Development of a Long-Term Strategy?

The concept of long-term planning for climate change and development raises unique governance challenges. Ensuring buy-in and ownership of key ministries, departments, and agencies and non-governmental stakeholders over the final strategy is essential if long-term strategies are to be influential in guiding short, medium, and long-term planning and investment decisions across society to initiate an effective and just transition to a low greenhouse gas emission and resilient future. This will require:

Political leadership: Clear high-level mandates and vision can foster greater coordination within and across ministries. Political leadership at the highest level can help drive the strategy, build momentum and get the right stakeholders and ministries involved.

Institutional arrangements: The process of developing, and subsequently implementing, long-term strategies requires the engagement of central ministries, multiple sectoral line ministries, sub-national government, civil society, and, in many countries, indigenous self-governing bodies. In many cases, this will require the creation or reconsideration of existing institutional arrangements for long-term planning.

Legal frameworks: Supportive legal frameworks ensure strong coherence across government strategy and help to avoid expensive and conflicting policies.

Stakeholder engagement: Stakeholders can help planners and decision-makers by providing information and preferences that can build a shared vision and may become important constituencies in the implementation of the long-term strategy.

In addition to governance considerations, resources and some degree of capacity may be required to undertake the development of a long-term strategy; these needs may include GHG inventory data support, assessments to identify climate change drivers and impacts, and private sector and civil society engagement.

Another consideration is the need to build upon existing plans and policies. This will require a consideration of how well established existing long-term planning and targets are (for example, any long-term economic planning processes that might already exist in a country), whether or not they already consider climate change mitigation and adaptation, and whether or not they are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Read More:  A Brief Guide For Reviewing Countries’ Long-term Strategies

Why is a Robust Decision on Long-term Strategies Needed at COP26?

  1. The current date to communicate a long-term strategy is attached to only a single moment in time (“by 2020,” as noted in Decision 1/CP.21. paragraph 35)—even though Article 4.19 itself is not time-bound. For Parties that have not met the original deadline, setting a new date in the COP26 decision text will provide a “moment” or timeframe for submitting long-term strategies.
  2. Long-term strategies are ideally not a one-off exercise, but rather a central component of ongoing national climate and development planning processes. Parties must be encouraged to regularly review and update their strategies to remain relevant over the next 30 years. This will help bring these strategies in line with the global goals agreed to under the Paris Agreement. Long-term strategies are a marker of Parties’ long-term ambition and a critical metric of the collective ability to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal.
  3. Long-term strategies have important links to other provisions of the Paris Agreement and are particularly relevant for updating successive, more short-term nationally determined contributions (NDCs). While countries may not necessarily abandon long-term strategies without a COP26 decision, a robust decision could help to maintain international momentum. Indeed, as many studies suggest, the international climate change negotiation process is important for enhancing global ambition, trust and transparency. At COP26, Parties should consider adopting a decision and taking other steps under the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement to amplify the role of long-term strategies after 2020.

Read More: Shaping a COP26 Decision on Long-term Climate Strategies

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