What is an INDC?

Countries across the globe adopted an historic international climate agreement at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. In anticipation of this moment, countries publicly outlined what post-2020 climate actions they intended to take under the new international agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement: to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

How does the process work?

INDCs pair national policy setting — in which countries determine their contributions in the context of their national priorities, circumstances and capabilities — with a global framework under the Paris Agreement that drives collective action toward a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future.

The INDCs create a constructive feedback loop between national and international decision-making on climate change.

INDCs are the primary means for governments to communicate internationally the steps they will take to address climate change in their own countries. INDCs reflect each country’s ambition for reducing emissions, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities. Some countries also address how they’ll adapt to climate change impacts, and what support they need from, or will provide to, other countries to adopt low-carbon pathways and to build climate resilience.

Do INDCs stay “intended”?

The word “intended” was used because countries were communicating proposed climate actions ahead of the Paris Agreement being finalized. However as countries formally join the Paris Agreement and look forward to implementation of these climate actions – the “intended” is dropped and an INDC is converted into a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

This conversion happens when a country submits its respective instrument of ratification, accession, or approval to join the Paris Agreement. For more information on this process refer to WRI’s blog posts on entry into force and conversion of INDCs to NDCs.

Under the provisions of the Paris Agreement, countries will be expected to submit an updated NDC every five years, which will represent a progression beyond the country’s then current NDC to reflect its highest possible ambition.

Where can we see the INDCs and NDCs?

All but a small handful of countries have now submitted their INDCs. Visit WRI’s interactive Paris Contributions Map to track for all of these INDCs and a summary of the climate actions communicated by each country the commitments.

All INDCs submitted by October 1st 2015 were included in a synthesis report by the UNFCCC Secretariat that was released in November 2015, and updated in May 2016. The report reflects the aggregate emissions impact of INDCs.

Many countries have also already converted their INDCs to NDCs. For a list of those countries that have converted their INDC to their first NDC, visit the UNFCCC’s NDC Registry.

What makes a good INDC?

Well-designed INDCs signal to the world that the country is doing its part to combat climate change and limit future climate risks. In preparing their INDCs, countries should have followed a transparent process in order to build trust and accountability with domestic and international stakeholders. A good INDC should be ambitious, leading to transformation in carbon-intensive sectors and industry; transparent, so that stakeholders can track progress and ensure countries meet their stated goals; and equitableso that each country does its fair share to address climate change.

It is important that INDCs be clearly communicated so domestic and international stakeholders can anticipate how these actions will contribute to global emissions reductions and climate resilience in the future. An INDC should also articulate how the country is integrating climate change into other national priorities, such as sustainable development and poverty reduction, and send signals to the private sector to contribute to these efforts.

What has WRI done on this topic?

WRI has worked, and is working, on a variety of projects that aim to assist governments in developing and implementing their INDCs and NDCs, assessing, tracking INDCs and helping stakeholders to understand and evaluate INDCs and NDCs.

WRI’s Open Climate Network worked with partners in eight focus countries to evaluate current emissions trends and abatement potential out to 2030, a process which helped inform initial INDCs. Now, OCN and its partners are using analysis and modeling to understand the policy options for delivering on INDCs in major emitting countries. This data provides critical information to decision-makers in the world’s largest economies as they work towards implementing their INDCs.

WRI works through our Open Book initiative to enhance INDC transparency. Our CAIT Paris Contributions Map tracks and analyzes INDCs.

Our ACT 2015 project helped catalyze agreement at COP21, including the ways in which countries’ commitments and other actions from their INDCs were finalized and linked to the 2015 agreement.

In partnership with the UNDP, WRI prepared an INDC guidance document to support the detailed design and preparation of INDCs, including for mitigation and adaptation components.

WRI has also developed a framework and guidance for countries on how to develop and communicate an INDC that is fair and ambitious.

WRI prepared a short framework, called Decoding INDCs, to aide understanding of key elements of the INDCs. Decoding INDCs is also available in French and Spanish.

Where can I learn more?