UNFCCC has seen unprecedented rise in climate pledges submission ahead of Oct 1 deadline

So far a total of 146 countries, representing almost 87 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have submitted their intended national climate action plans (shortly called as INDCs) detailing their contributions to the expected Paris climate agreement.

Over 60 INDCs were submitted this week, as countries struggled to meet the implicit deadline of October 1. After this date, submissions are still allowed but will not be included in the UNFCCC’s synthesis report on their aggregate effect, which will be published by the UNFCCC Secretariat by November 1.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC said: “Over the past few months, the number of countries submitting their climate action plans to the Paris agreement has grown from a steady stream into a sweeping flood. This unprecedented breadth and depth of response reflects the increasing recognition that there is an unparalleled opportunity to achieve resilient, low-emission, sustainable development at national level. ”

The most awaited contribution came from India. India’s INDC was announced to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on October 2, but it matched the deadline thanks to the time-zone difference.
India said it would reduce its emissions intensity (the amount of CO2 equivalent released for each unit of GDP) by 33-35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The country also set a goal of having 40 percent of its installed electric capacity powered by non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030.

Including India’s pledge, all the ten major global emitters have submitted their plans to reduce GHG emissions and cope with adverse effects of climate change.

GHG emissions reduction target Target year Reference year
China 60-65% per unit of GDP 2030 2005
United States 26-28% 2025 2005
EU (28) ≥40% 2030 1990
India 33-35% per unit of GDP 2030 2005
Russia 25-30% 2030 1990
Indonesia 29-41% 2030 BAU
Brazil 37%
Japan 26% 2030 2013
Canada 30% 2030 2005
Mexico 22-36% 2030 BAU (from 2013)

Going beyond the historical dichotomy between Annex I and Non-Annex I countries, the Paris deal asks for the participation of all countries, which were called to communicate their INDCs well in advance the two-week negotiation taking place from from November 30 to December 11 in Paris.

Despite serving the same purposes, the pledges submitted so far show many substantial differences. From one side, most advanced economies, including US and EU, proposed economy-wide emissions reduction targets from a base year. On the other side, it is not uncommon to find intensity targets among developing nations and emerging economies, as in the case of China, India and Singapore, which chose a reduction of GHG emissions per unit GDP, or more frequently, a percentage deviation from a Business as Usual (BaU) scenario.

As for developing countries, usually a lower “unconditional” bound and an upper “conditional” bound are proposed, the latter to be implemented only with financial and technological support from the international community. Moreover, developing countries’ contributions usually put more emphasis on adaptation measures than the most industrialized counterparts, which conversely continue to focus mainly on mitigation actions.

Looking at the emission targets pledged by four of the major emitters, namely EU, US, China, and Russia, it can be seen that, if absolute levels of emissions are compared, the EU will support a higher effort than the other countries. On the contrary, when changes in the GHG/GDP ratio are taken into account, China and Russia will reduce the most (read the full analysis on ICCG International Climate Policy N.37).
By November 1, the UNFCCC has to accomplish the ambitious task of synthesizing the aggregate effect of all the INDCs submitted, in order to assess the effectiveness of the proposed actions towards the objective of limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C.

However, as anticipated by PBL, this objective will not be achieved without future additional mitigation efforts.

Last but not least, a fair analysis of the INDCs should also provide an assessment of each country’s relative contribution in achieving the 2°C threshold. Besides efficiency concerns, this would help clarify how the burden of the climate action is distributed, especially among the major emitting countries. Additional contributions along with improved negotiating efforts are therefore needed to lay a solid foundation for an equitable, effective, and forward-looking Paris deal.


(Image: Paris 2015 UNFCCC conference logo. Photo credit: UNclimatechange/Flickr)