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Climate change: Full NDC Synthesis Report reveals progress, challenges

UN Climate Change on Friday, September 17, 2021 published a synthesis of climate action plans as communicated in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

patricia espinosa
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC

The NDC Synthesis report indicates that while there is a clear trend that greenhouse gas emissions are being reduced over time, nations must urgently redouble their climate efforts if they are to prevent global temperature increases beyond the Paris Agreement’s goal of well below 2C – ideally 1.5C – by the end of the century.

The Synthesis Report was requested by Parties to the Paris Agreement to assist them in assessing the progress of climate action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow, Scotland.

The report includes information from all 191 Parties to the Paris Agreement based on their latest NDCs available in the interim NDC registry as at 30 July 2021, including information from 86 updated or new NDCs submitted by 113 Parties. The new or updated NDCs cover about 59% of Parties to the Paris Agreement and account for about 49% of global GHG emissions.

For the group of 113 Parties with new or updated NDCs, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to decrease by 12% in 2030 compared to 2010. This is an important step towards the reductions identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which estimated that limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5C requires a reduction of CO2 emissions of 45% in 2030 or a 25% reduction by 2030 to limit warming to 2C.

Within the group of 113 Parties, 70 countries indicated carbon neutrality goals around the middle of the century. This goal could lead to even greater emissions reductions, of about 26% by 2030 compared to 2010. 

“I congratulate all Parties that have submitted updated or new NDCs,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change.

“The synthesis shows that countries are making progress towards the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals. This means that the in-built mechanism set up by the Paris Agreement to allow for a gradual increase of ambition is working,” she added.

A sizeable number of NDCs from developing countries contain conditional commitments to reduce emissions, which can only be implemented with access to enhanced financial resources and other support. The report suggests that the full implementation of these components could allow for global emissions to peak by 2030. Regarding adaptation actions, which are also covered in many of the available NDCs, support is particularly critical.

“This shows just how central the issue of providing support to developing countries really is. We need to peak emissions as soon as possible before 2030 and support developing countries in building up climate resilience. The pledge to mobilise $100 billion annually by 2020 was key for enhancing climate action by developing countries. That commitment that was made in the UNFCCC process more than 10 years ago has not yet been fulfilled. It’s time to deliver – COP26 is the place to do so. Developing countries need this support in order to act as ambitiously as possible,” Ms. Espinosa urged. 

The report also contains some worrying findings. The available NDCs of all 191 Parties taken together imply a sizable increase in global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010, of about 16%. According to the latest IPCC findings, such an increase, unless actions are taken immediately, may lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7C by the end of the century.

“The 16% increase is a huge cause of concern. It is in sharp contrast with the calls by science for rapid, sustained and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world,” Ms. Espinosa said.

“The report clearly shows that the NDC framework is helping Parties to advance towards fulfilling their commitments under the Paris Agreement,” she added.

Espinosa clarified that Parties can submit NDCs or update already submitted NDCs at any time, including in the run-up to COP26. In this event and in order to ensure that the COP has the latest information before it, UN Climate Change will issue an update to cover all NDCs submitted on or before October 12, 2021. The update is planned to be published on October 25, 2021.

“Knowing how much work on enhancing NDCs has been ongoing, I again call on all Parties that have not yet done so to submit new or updated NDCs. But those Parties that have already made submissions also have the opportunity to revisit their NDCs to increase their level of ambition. The time left before COP26 is short, but I hope we may still see many more NDCs,” Ms. Espinosa said.

Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 President, said: “This report is clear: ambitious climate action can avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, but only if all nations act together. Those nations which have submitted new and ambitious climate plans are already bending the curve of emissions downwards by 2030. But without action from all countries, especially the biggest economies, these efforts risk being in vain. We can change the course of history for the better. We can and must act, for ourselves, for vulnerable communities and future generations.”

The new or updated NDCs show a marked improvement in the quality of information presented, for both mitigation and adaptation, and tend to be aligned with broader long-term, low-emission development goals, the achievement of carbon neutrality, national legislative/regulatory/planning processes, and other international frameworks such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additionally, non-State actors and other stakeholders are becoming more involved in the NDC planning and implementation processes.

COP25 President, Carolina Schmidt, said: “I congratulate the countries that have made an effort to align their new NDCs with what science is asking of us. But this effort must be made by all parties. I make an explicit call especially to the major emitters to deliver their commitments so that together we can prevent the temperature from rising more than 1.5. The IPCC report shows us that we can achieve it, but only if we are all working decisively in the same direction.”

Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres

In a reaction to the NDC Synthesis Report, UN Secretary General, António Guterres, said: “Today’s report from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on the Nationally Determined Contributions of all Parties to the Paris Agreement shows that the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7-degrees of heating.

“This is breaking the promise made six years ago to pursue the 1.5-degree Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement. Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods.

“Science tells that we need a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century. Today’s report implies an increase of 16 per cent in emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 levels.

“The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a code red for humanity. But it also made clear that it is not too late to meet the Paris Agreement 1.5-degree target. We have the tools to achieve this target. But we are rapidly running out of time.

“G20 nations account for 80% of global emissions. Their leadership is needed more than ever. The decisions they take now will determine whether the promise made at Paris is kept or broken.

“Before COP 26 all nations should submit a more ambitious NDC that help to place the world on a 1.5-degree pathway. We also need developed nations to finally deliver on the US100 billion commitment promised over a decade ago in support to developing countries. The Climate Finance report published today by the OECD shows that this goal has not been reached either.

“Finally, we need all donors and MDBs to commit to provide at least 50% of their public climate finance towards supporting vulnerable developing to build resilience to worsening climate impacts.

“The fight against climate change will only succeed if everyone comes together to promote more ambition, more cooperation and more credibility. No more ignoring science. No more ignoring the demands of people everywhere. It is time for leaders to stand and deliver, or people in all countries will pay a tragic price.”

The full NDC synthesis report can be read here.

The interim NDC registry can be viewed here.

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