At the UN Climate Action Summit next week, scores of countries are expected to announce their plans to accelerate and scale up global ambition to implement the Paris Agreement. UN Secretary General António Guterres has called on all world leaders to bring “plans and not speeches” and requested ambitious announcements of national strategies to reach net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by midcentury.

These long-term strategies (formally known as mid-century, long-term, low-greenhouse gas emissions development strategies under the Paris Agreement) are an essential piece of the puzzle to limit global warming. The 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report  is clear: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) over pre-industrial levels will require action across multiple sectors and deal with a range of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollutants that drive climate change. Long-term strategies play a key role in driving these necessary transformations.

The Paris Agreement invites all countries to communicate their long-term strategies to the UN by 2020. To date, 12 countries have formally done so. Many other countries have initiated domestic processes to meet this deadline. Climate Watch, WRI’s online platform offering data, visualization and analysis on countries’ climate data and actions, has launched a new module to track the long-term strategies as they are developed, showing where things stand and highlighting what has been committed in these strategies. Tools such as these are important for assessing progress toward meeting the global goals agreed to under the Paris Agreement.

Climate Watch’s Long-term Strategy Tracker

The new Climate Watch module presents the 12 countries that have communicated long-term strategies and the goals contained therein. Those countries represent just over 32 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Country Quantified Vision for Emissions in 2050
Japan 80% by 2050 (base year not specified)
Fiji Carbon neutrality by 2050
Marshall Islands Net zero GHG emissions by 2050
Ukraine 31-34% by 2050 below 1990 emissions levels
United Kingdom 80% by 2050 below 1990 emissions levels
Czech Republic 39 Mt CO2e in 2050
France 75% by 2050 below 1990 emissions levels
Benin n/a (plan extends to 2025)
United States 80% or more by 2050 below 2005 emissions levels
Mexico 50% by 2050 below 2000 emissions levels
Germany 80 to 95% by 2050 below 1990 emissions levels
Canada 80% by 2050 below 2005 emissions levels

Source: Climate Watch

11 long-term strategies include a quantified vision for emissions in 2050. These come in various forms. For example, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Ukraine, UK and the U.S. use “base year goals” (i.e. an emissions reduction goals relative to a certain historical emissions level). Japan states a percentage reduction goal (without specifying the reference year), while Czech Republic, Fiji and the Marshall Islands all have fixed-level goals, stating what emissions level will be achieved in 2050. Most goals are light on details.  For example, it is not always clear which sectors and gases are included in the long-term goal, which is the base year (in the case of Japan), whether offsets will be used to reach goals, or what accounting methodologies will be used to track and report on progress.

Long-term strategies are also larger in scope than just the emission reduction goals they contain. They are a critical means of planning for the longer-term transitions required across the entire economy, while also helping to capitalize on the opportunities. Developing a long-term strategy is about creating a shared vision for a country that meets national development objectives as well as the global goals of the Paris Agreement.

Among the countries that have formally communicated a long-term strategy, only Fiji and the Marshall Islands have set goals of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. But there has been a recent swell of national commitments for net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner outside of the Paris Agreement submissions process.

In addition, a flurry of work is underway in more countries to get their long-term strategies finalized by the end of 2020.  For example, 28 countries have joined the 2050 Pathways Platform to develop their long-term strategies (among which 9 of these have already done so). China and India also recently committed to developing its long-term strategy by 2020. (Watch our recent webinar to learn more about the role long-term strategies will play at the upcoming U.N. Climate Action Summit).

Long-term strategies are important guideposts for directing short- and medium-term climate action plans that lead to net-zero pathways. The Climate Watch long-term strategies tracker will be updated in real time as more long-term strategies are submitted and will be complemented with in-depth analysis of the specific contents in countries’ long-term low emissions development plans. Stay tuned.