The national climate contributions communicated by Parties to the UNFCCC ahead of COP21 will form the core elements of the international climate agreement.

This paper provides a framework and guidance for countries on how to develop and communicate a contribution that is “fair and ambitious”.

Key Findings

Due to the variety of national circumstances, each country’s national climate contribution, called its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC), varies in terms of scope, form, and coverage. How countries describe the fairness and ambition of their contribution can be important to enhance international understanding of countries’ actions and enable assessment of whether they are making an adequate contribution towards global goals. It can also generate constructive discussions both within and among countries, build trust among the Parties, and help motivate increased and equitable collective action in advance of COP21.

Other benefits include:

  • Enabling each Party to compare its contribution with that of its peers (i.e. countries with similar national circumstances).

  • Enabling each Party to address whether it is doing its fair share of the collective level of effort required to avoid catastrophic climate change and ensure adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

  • Explaining the link between climate action and sustainable development objectives.

  • Explaining how the contribution achieves synergies between mitigation and adaptation, for Parties that are including an adaptation component.

  • The opportunity to explain why means of implementation (funding) is needed or has been provided to other countries as part of the contribution.

  • Recognition for existing domestic efforts and demonstration of leadership.

  • Enhanced credibility for the contribution, gained through a demonstrated willingness to be transparent about national circumstances.

Executive Summary

This paper provides a framework and guidance that Parties to the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can use in addressing how their climate contributions will be “fair and ambitious” as agreed in the 2014 Lima Call for Climate Action. It proposes that Parties approach this task as a descriptive narrative that draws on quantitative and qualitative indicators to address a range of key factors.

Each Party’s climate contribution—called its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC)—will form the core elements of the new international climate agree¬ment to be finalized at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. In Lima, at COP20, the Parties agreed to include with their INDCs information on “how the Party considers that its intended nationally determined contribution is fair and ambitious, in light of its national circumstances, and how it contributes towards achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2.” (UNFCCC 2014, paragraph 14).

A robust description of fairness and ambition in a country’s INDC can help provide the international community and national stakeholders with information about the fairness and ambition of these plans, including:

  • Key metrics and other factors to enhance the comparability of contributions among countries
  • How the country’s INDC contributes to the global level of ambition for emission reductions and adaptation, including how it will help achieve the goals of the Convention;
  • The link between a country’s contribution and its sustainable development objectives;
  • The synergies between the mitigation and adaptation components of the INDC; and
  • Why a country might request or offer means of implementation (funding) as part of its contribution.

A country’s description of the fairness and ambition of its contribution should address the level and type of action against key factors, such as its: emissions responsibility and profile: capabilities, including its development needs; vulnerability and capacity to adapt; and potential and opportunities to act.

The description should also highlight how climate action enhances broader sustainable development goals and how it catalyzes long-term transformation toward climate resilience and low-carbon outcomes across sectors.

The proposed framework has five main components:

  • Initial framing statement
  • Description of current pre-2020 undertakings
  • How the contribution(s) are fair and ambitious, in light of national circumstances
  • How the contributions will contribute towards achieving the objective of the Convention
  • Additional considerations

This guidance provides a number of questions for each component that will enable countries to think through relevant considerations for fairness and ambition, and communicate them in a robust and transparent manner. No single metric or formula is proposed, but rather a set of elements is suggested, including quantitative metrics and qualitative factors that can inform considerations of fairness and ambition.

If clearly communicated through INDCs, the criteria countries use to describe fairness and ambition may inform efforts to develop benchmarks or guidelines on these issues under the new international climate agreement.