While the outcomes are still uncertain, one thing is sure about the upcoming COP21 in Paris: it will not be business as usual. For the first time in UNFCCC history, both developed and developing countries are publically contributing specific national plans to address climate change. These plans, submitted in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), indicate that governments across the globe have understood what is at stake, and are willing to cooperate to fight the biggest challenge facing humanity today.
As of November 23, 146 INDCs had been submitted, reflecting the will of 173 countries (the European Union member states filed a unified resolution), and covering 92 percent of the global population. With support from UNEP and the GEF, UDP has assisted 32 developing countries across Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean in preparing their INDCs by helping them identify mitigation and adaptation priorities in the context of their sustainable development needs. Among other activities, UDP provided crucial information about INDC requirements, showed government officials how to use analytical tools to develop options, and supported stakeholder involvement in the INDC process. Given the short time frame, providing this kind of support was a challenge. However, close cooperation with governments and country focal points, especially sector line ministries, made it possibly to submit the INDCs in time for COP21.
For most of the 32 countries, this was the first time that climate change plans were submitted as a national document, developed bottom-up with input from line ministries. Up until now, the usual process had been to submit analyses and reports prepared by consultants. The challenges are many in these countries, but the high level of cooperation developed during the INDC process will help build the road to implementation. Before implementation begins, however, the plans will require much more analysis and detail, including systems for MRV. UDP looks forward to continuing to assist these countries as they work towards their goals.
Not only did UDP provide support for INDC preparation, but it also provided and authoritative assessment of the mitigation contributions in the incoming INDCs in the recently released 2015 UNEP Emissions Gap Report. “We engaged a regionally balanced INDC expert team to assess the mitigation contribution of the incoming INDCs by 203, if fully implemented. The resulting emissions level was then compared with the level that will be required to achieve the 2°C and 1.5°C temperature goals” said John Christensen, Director of UDP.
Even though assessments of incoming INDCs already make it clear that the combined ambitions of all countries will not close the emissions gap, there is much room for hope. Parallel to the formal negotiations in Paris will be the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, an event that brings together state and non-state actors to accelerate cooperative climate action. At these events, cities, private companies, and other non-state entities will commit to strengthening emissions reduction efforts. Many will make public climate change contributions above and beyond what was submitted in the INDCs. UDP will through the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform play an important role in encouraging cities, private companies, and other non-state players to take forceful action to combat climate change.