Photo: UNDP Moldova | Solar Trees


The 2020-2021 period is a key milestone for the Paris Agreement on climate change, as it is the first opportunity to strengthen national climate plans submitted under the agreement. Countries are forging ahead in doing so despite setbacks arising from the global Covid-19 pandemic. Although the public health emergency has delayed this process in some cases, it has also underscored the importance of addressing global challenges in accordance with science.

The Paris Agreement seeks to put the world on a more sustainable pathway by limiting average global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C), as well as improving climate resilience. The national climate plans, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), that countries put forward in 2015 are the backbone of the agreement. These NDCs lay out targets and policies for mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change.

But the initial NDCs put forward by countries, collectively, do not go far enough. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), net global carbon dioxide emissions must decrease by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and reach “net-zero” by around 2050, in order to achieve the 1.5-degree goal. Currently we are far from where we need to be. But the Paris Agreement provides an opportunity for countries to ratchet up their climate ambition by submitting new or updated NDCs every five years.

UNDP, through its Climate Promise, is currently supporting 115 countries in this process, along with over 25 partners. As the world’s largest offer of support for NDC enhancement, the initiative focuses on building political will and societal ownership; reviewing and updating targets and policies; incorporating new sectors and GHGs to tackle; assessing costs and investment opportunities; and strengthening monitoring and transparency. The Climate Promise builds on UNDP’s expertise in a variety of sectors and cross-cutting themes, such as energy, forests, finance, gender, and green jobs, as well as its work to support governments under the Paris Agreement.

As part of the Climate Promise, UNDP is producing a number of tools and resources to support countries in revising their NDCs. Among these, we have developed a Quality Assurance Checklist for Revising NDCs to support governments, UNDP country offices, and other stakeholders in reflecting on the NDC revision process and assessing opportunities for enhancement. The checklist is available in English, Spanish, and French, and outlines three dimensions that are essential for revised NDCs and the revision process:

  1. Country ownership and inclusiveness: The engagement of society and political stakeholders at all levels during the revision process, and the inclusion of engagement outcomes in the enhanced NDC.

  2. Robustness and ambition: The clarity, transparency, and understanding (CTU) of mitigation and/or adaptation components; communication of cross-cutting issues; and enhancement of key targets and measures in the enhanced NDC.

  3. Feasibility: Key enabling conditions for implementing NDCs, such as finance mobilization, technology transfer, and institutional capacity-building.

Countries are making progress across these three dimensions under the Climate Promise. Colombia, for example, is working to engage sub-national governments and stakeholders such as women and youth in the NDC process. Paraguay is building institutional capacities and exploring opportunities to increase ambition as it defines goals for its enhanced NDC. And Argentina is analyzing opportunities to mobilize finance and incorporate cross-cutting issues such as gender and coherence with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The questions in the checklist are derived from the Paris Agreement, the IPCC Special Report on Warming of 1.5C, and the World Resources Institute/UNDP Guidance on Enhancing NDCs, as well as UNDP’s experience supporting countries on NDC design, revision, and implementation. They are meant to guide countries by supplementing – not replacing – relevant UNFCCC decisions. However, it is not expected that countries will necessarily fulfill all elements of the checklist, as NDCs are meant to be nationally determined and will depend on national circumstances.

UNDP hopes the checklist will lead to high-quality NDCs that are more robust, inclusive, and ambitious. As a living document, it may be revised going forward to improve its usefulness. We would be pleased to receive feedback from countries and users based on their experiences with the tool. UNDP also stands ready to continue supporting countries under the Climate Promise and other climate change initiatives through our global footprint in over 170 countries.

In recent months, the scale of effort that will be needed to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic has become clear. With the next UN climate change conference one year away, countries are tasked with addressing, in parallel, the global challenge of climate change. The global community must respond to both of these challenges with a level of ambition befitting of their scale, and explore opportunities for mutually beneficial outcomes. The next year will prove crucial to setting us on a path toward green recovery and a climate-compatible future. Stronger NDCs are a decisive first step as we embark on this pathway forwards.

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