World Resource Institute

National Climate Action under the Paris Agreement

What is an NDC?

To chart the course to a more sustainable future, the historic 2015 Paris Agreement established a goal to limit average global temperature rise to well below 2˚ degrees C, and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5˚ degrees C. To meet this goal, every country is expected to prepare and communicate a nationally determined contribution (NDC) every five years. NDCs include targets, measures and policies and are the basis for national climate action plans.

The Paris Agreement also invites countries to submit long-term climate and development strategies to provide a visionary roadmap for countries to achieve complete decarbonization by mid-century and to ensure prosperity for all.

Five years after the global pact was adopted, countries are now in the process of updating their NDCs.

Why should countries strengthen their NDCs?

The initial commitments that countries put forward in Paris are not enough to avoid crossing over dangerous temperature thresholds — currently putting us on track to 3˚ degrees C of warming or more. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C found that even a half-degree of difference in global temperature rise will have profound impacts on sea level rise, biodiversity and extreme weather events. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb to all-time highs. The scientific evidence further suggests that the window of opportunity to achieve the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals is closing rapidly. That is why it is imperative that the current NDC enhancement process delivers faster, deeper greenhouse gas emission reductions and prepare for global warming's impacts.

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Beyond the urgency of addressing the climate crisis, countries will benefit in many other ways from enhancing their NDCs.

What emission reduction targets should countries aim for in their NDCs?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human-caused emissions — like those from fossil-fueled vehicles and power plants — must be slashed by almost half from recent levels by 2030 and then reach net zero by early in the second half of the century to avoid the most dangerous and costly consequences of climate change. The current round of NDC updates plays a critical role in charting this course by setting the direction of travel over the next decade. Stronger NDCs can create the policy context to steer investments and attract climate finance. And they can provide transparency and accountability through national and multilateral processes.

To achieve net zero by mid-century, emissions must be reduced as low as possible, and any remaining emissions balanced with the equivalent amount of  carbon removal.

How can COVID-19 recovery link to NDC enhancement?

Financial recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the enhancement of NDCs have different goals — economic stimulus, on the one hand, and target-setting to address climate change, on the other. But sustainable policies and investments can advance both economic and climate goals. Action in sectors like power, transport, agriculture and food, and land use can both be integrated into COVID stimulus strategies and underpin the climate targets set out in NDCs.

The COVID-19 crisis will ripple throughout economies and communities for years. WRI offers expert analysis to build back better after the coronavirus crisis.

View our COVID-19 Resources

Which countries have submitted their updated NDCs so far?

Use Climate Watch’s 2020 NDC Tracker to understand how countries are moving ahead with enhancing their NDCs. Below is a snapshot:

Visit the Explore NDCs page on Climate Watch for in-depth information on countries’ new national climate plans.

What resources does WRI offer on enhancing NDCs?

With UNDP and other partners, WRI has published an overview of the NDC enhancement process as well as guides that cover sectoral opportunities to advance climate action, including power, transport, agriculture, and forest and land use.

What is the Difference Between an INDC and an NDC?

In the lead up to the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, more than 160 countries and the European Union publicly outlined what climate actions they intended to take under the global pact, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). A country’s INDC is converted to an NDC when it formally joins the Paris Agreement by submitting an instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession unless a country decides otherwise. As of September 2020, 186 Parties have submitted their plans to the NDC Registry.