The UN’s Paris Agreement established three overarching goals: to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F); to promote adaptation and resilience; and to align financial flows with low-emissions, climate-resilient development. These goals are underpinned by countries’ 2030 climate commitments, known as “nationally determined contributions” or “NDCs.”

In their NDCs, each of the 194 countries (Parties) that signed the Paris Agreement must lay out its aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many also include plans for adapting to climate impacts and financial requirements to implement their commitments.

Countries must strengthen their NDCs on a regular, five-year cycle. Most submitted their initial commitments in 2015 and updated them by 2021. A new, stronger round of NDCs is due in 2025.

WRI’s Climate Watch platform tracks more than 200 indicators across all NDCs. Here, we update findings from our 2022 State of NDCs report with new analysis, drawing out key trends and evaluating the current state of play on NDCs. The biggest takeaway? Countries are making incremental progress on strengthening their NDCs, but what the world really needs to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement is a radical increase in both ambition and action on almost every front.

Here’s what we know and what countries should keep in mind as they formulate new NDCs by 2025.

1) Despite some progress, countries must reduce emissions by at least 5 times as much as current pledges.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that global emissions must fall by at least 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 to align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree-C goal. However, current NDCs will only reduce global emissions by about 8% from 2019 levels.

This 8% represents a reduction of 5.9 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) compared to the initial round of NDCs — approximately equivalent to eliminating the annual emissions of the United States. Although a step in the right direction, countries will need to reduce emissions by more than 5 times as much to align with 1.5-degree-C pathways.

In the current NDCs more countries have set GHG reduction targets than in the initial round, and some have expanded their targets to cover more sectors and more types of greenhouse gases. But the emissions impact of these improvements has been modest. More than 85% of the improvement has come from large countries ratcheting up the stringency of their targets as opposed to countries adding new targets or expanding them to cover additional sectors and gases. Accelerating ambition on this front is paramount to the success of the Paris Agreement.

2) Countries are strengthening adaptation plans, but progress must speed up and expand.

One hundred and forty-five countries — the vast majority — now include adaptation elements in their NDCs. In the current round of NDCs, countries approximately doubled the number of priority adaptation actions compared to their initial commitments. These actions show improved coverage of sectors and systems, with a strong focus on food and nutrition security, water and nature-based solutions. Current adaptation plans also include a stronger emphasis on equity than previous NDCs, with greater consideration of gender concerns and inclusion of Indigenous peoples.

Yet more work needs to be done to implement adaptation at the speed and scale the climate crisis demands. Few countries’ NDCs include timeframes or indicators for implementing adaptation plans or for monitoring, evaluation and learning around adaptation actions — critical elements for ensuring that planned interventions translate into on-the-ground action.

3)Current levels of climate finance aren’t enough to implement even a subset of NDCs.

While countries are not required to report on their climate finance requirements in NDCs, 53% (91 countries representing 51% of the global population), included an estimate for how much money they’ll need to implement their plans. These countries say they’ll need $4.5 trillion in total: $2.8 trillion for mitigation, $1.1 trillion for adaptation and $0.6 trillion unspecified.

Importantly, all of the countries reporting on their climate finance needs are developing countries whose ability to implement climate pledges depends significantly on support from developed nations, international finance institutions and others. Of the $4.5 trillion total, $1.6 trillion represents funds needed to achieve “conditional” NDC pledges, those contingent on receiving international finance to implement mitigation and adaptation plans. This figure dwarfs the $100 billion that developed countries promised to provide annually by 2020 to support developing countries’ climate actions — a target which, according to recent reports, was likely met for the first time in 2022.

Finance estimates from the 91 countries who provided them underscore the need to mobilize significantly greater resources to implement NDCs.

4) Around 40% of countries include loss and damage in their NDCs.

Seventy-four countries’ NDCs mention “loss and damage,” which refers to the consequences of climate change that go beyond those to which countries can adapt. Most of these countries (57, or 77%) refer to the economic effects of loss and damage. About half of these countries (42, or 57%) reference non-economic impacts of loss and damage, such as reduced biodiversity and weakened cultural heritage. Additionally, more small island developing states now include loss and damage costs and related topics in their NDCs than in the initial round, suggesting that the most climate-vulnerable countries are increasingly prioritizing this information.

Only about one-quarter of the countries that mention “loss and damage” provide information on the required finance and capacity building to address it. However, compared to the initial NDCs, more countries now include information on loss and damage-related topics such as climate-induced migration and slow-onset events (which are gradual changes without a clear starting or ending point, such as sea-level rise or ocean acidification). This suggests that countries may prioritize elements of loss and damage even if they do not include cost figures in their NDCs.

Additional support for countries to analyze trends in loss and damage — including the use of climate scenarios — and approaches for addressing it, such as comprehensive risk management, could improve this information in future rounds of NDCs.

5) 87% of NDCs seek to increase renewable energy, but few explicitly aim to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

In addition to economy-wide targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most NDCs contain sector-specific measures. Those promoting renewable energy are among the most popular: 147 NDCs contain measures to boost renewable power, and more than half of these contain quantified renewable energy targets.

But limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C also requires slashing fossil fuel consumption dramatically, and fewer NDCs explicitly address this. Only 93 contain measures pertaining to fossil fuel consumption, and a mere 11 contain measures to phase out or phase down fossil fuel use.

6) Most NDCs include measures addressing forests and land use, but quality varies.

More than 120 NDCs contain measures to protect standing ecosystems, manage working lands to reduce emissions, and/or to restore degraded ecosystems. Fifty-three NDCs contain measures in all three categories.

The quality of these measures, however, varies widely. Only 89 NDCs have quantifiable targets related to land use and forestry, and very few incorporate critical issues such as financial needs and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

7) NDCs prioritize electric mobility but don’t include other critical measures to reduce transport emissions.

Current NDCs have embraced electric transport, with measures to promote vehicle electrification more than doubling from the initial round of NDCs. However, a holistic approach to reducing emissions from transport involves more than just vehicle improvements. It must also include avoiding unnecessary vehicle travel, shifting to more efficient travel modes and improving fuel efficiency.

The enthusiasm for electric mobility was not matched by growth in other critical transport-related areas. Less than half of NDCs contain public transport measures. And measures related to active transport (walking and cycling) and low-carbon freight, shipping and aviation appear in only a handful of NDCs. The next round of NDCs should ensure balanced attention across these themes, taking into account both passenger and freight sources.

Learn more about transport in NDCs in WRI's research paper, Sustainable Urban Mobility in the NDCs: The Essential Role of Public Transport.

8) Only 15 of the 119 Global Methane Pledge signatories include a specific, quantified methane-reduction target in their NDCs.

Countries committed to the Global Methane Pledge, launched at COP26 in 2021, agreed to collectively reduce global methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. While around 80% of signatories include methane under the umbrella of their economy-wide GHG reduction targets, far fewer (only 15) include quantified methane-specific targets in their NDCs. This makes it challenging to determine how and when the collective Global Methane Pledge target will be met.

The next round of NDCs offers an opportunity for Global Methane Pledge signatories to spell out how they will contribute to the collective 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030.

9) NDCs increasingly recognize the importance of a just transition.

The idea of a “just transition” is to shift to a zero-carbon economy in a way that reduces negative impacts on workers, communities and value chains while also ensuring that the benefits of this transition are fairly distributed. As support for just transitions rises on the UN’s climate agenda, so too, has its recognition in countries’ NDCs.

Explicit attention to this concept was almost non-existent in the initial NDCs, appearing only in South Africa’s plan. Forty-five current NDCs (including that of the European Union) explicitly mention a just transition, although at varying depths. Some, such as Mauritius and Iceland, briefly mention the concept while others, such as Costa Rica, South Africa, and Antigua and Barbuda, have more fully incorporated it, with paragraphs or dedicated sections on just transition.

The next round of NDCs can further detail countries’ plans and needs for a just transition. The Just Transitions Work Programme (JTWP) was established at COP27 to support countries in developing effective just transition policies, and decisions around how to implement the work programme are expected at COP28. The JTWP could highlight opportunities for nations to integrate just transition into their NDCs and help connect country-level action to international processes, including those related to finance.

What’s Next for Countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)?

As the next round of NDCs approaches, the large-scale transformations needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals are nowhere in sight.

The Global Stocktake at COP28 — a process designed to assess the global response to the climate crisis every five years — will show what’s needed to meet these goals and help inform countries’ updated NDCs. As countries develop new plans in advance of 2025, it will be important to put forward not just incremental improvements, but an entirely different scale of ambition and a clear sense of how countries will deliver it.


This article was originally published October 18, 2022. It was last updated on December 7, 2023.