Tuesday 7th December 2021
Tuesday, 7th of December 2021
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NDC Synthesis Report shows increased focus on adaptation, SDG linkages

The UNFCCC Secretariat published a synthesis of 48 new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) communicated by 75 parties under the Paris Agreement on climate change. The NDCs considered in the report account for about 40% of parties and 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2017.

patricia espinosa
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC

The advance version of the report (FCCC/PA/CMA/2021/2), issued on February 26, 2021 in preparation for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26), summarises the NDCs recorded in the UNFCCC interim NDC registry as at December 31, 2020.

The report finds almost all parties provided information “necessary to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding of their NDCs.” It reviews the NDCs’ scope and coverage, timeframes and/or periods of implementation, quantifiable information, and assumptions and methodological approaches.

The synthesis reveals variation in terms of specific elements relating to adaptation, domestic mitigation measures, and means of implementation, as well as planning and implementation processes, mitigation co-benefits resulting from adaptation action and/or economic diversification plans, and fairness and ambition in light of national circumstances.

Total GHG emission reductions ‘fall far short of what is required’

All reviewed NDCs include information on mitigation targets, ranging from economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets to strategies, plans, and actions for low-emission development, to be implemented within a specific timeframe or implementation period. Less than 10% of parties’ NDCs specify when their emissions are expected to peak.

Some of these parties express their target as a carbon budget.

Although many parties have strengthened their commitment to reducing or limiting GHG emissions, the report emphasises that based on the new or updated NDCs, their total emission reductions “fall far short of what is required” in order to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal.

Considering full implementation of unconditional and conditional elements in the NDCs, the report “implies the possibility” of the parties’ emissions peaking before 2025 or by 2030 by the latest. It cautions, however, that implementation of most conditional elements depends on access to enhanced financial resources, technology transfer and technical cooperation, and capacity-building support, among others. 

Sector-specific mitigation measures with quantitative targets

Almost all parties outline domestic mitigation measures as key instruments for achieving mitigation targets. Quantitative mitigation targets presented encompass the following priority areas: energy supply; transport; buildings; industry; agriculture; waste; and land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).

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Most parties identify domestic mitigation measures in the LULUCF sector, with some developing countries highlighting reducing deforestation as a priority with high mitigation potential, including by implementing REDD+ activities such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks, and managing forests sustainably.

Examples of quantitative targets for 2030 include: levels of CO2 emissions and removals; percentage of total land area under forest cover; and GHG emissions reduction expressed as a deviation from “business as usual”.

However, the report points to uncertainty and lack of clarity regarding the approaches used for estimating, projecting, and accounting for LULUCF emissions and removals.

Energy and cross-sectoral energy efficiency improvements

The NDCs highlight the importance of the energy sector, with an emphasis on energy supply, generation, transmission, and storage. Domestic mitigation measures for renewable energy generation are most frequently mentioned, followed by measures for energy efficiency improvements.

Less than 40% of the NDCs communicate measures for reducing emissions from fossil fuel exploration, production, transport, and distribution. Few parties specify phasing out coal to produce electricity or banning the construction of coal-fired power plants.

Mitigation options presented in the NDCs include renewable energy generation, nuclear energy generation, and reducing primary energy from coal. Other mitigation options relate to: energy storage; grid improvement; shifting to low- or zero-carbon fuels; energy efficiency improvements; carbon capture and storage (CCS); electrification; and reducing or utilising fugitive emissions.

Cross-cutting measures relevant to these options include implementing integrated national energy and climate plans for 2021-2030, and developing climate policies for the petroleum sector such as CO2 taxes and CCS.

Beyond the energy sector, the NDCs note energy efficiency improvements as a priority area in the transport, buildings, and industry sector. While domestic mitigation measures in the area of industry receive little mention, the NDCs consider industrial processes and product use. The energy efficiency improvement measures highlighted in the NDCs include:

  • introducing periodic tariff reforms for residential, commercial, and industrial power consumption to advance cost-reflective pricing and encourage energy conservation;
  • implementing energy management systems in line with national and international standards, including those of the International Organisation for Standardisation (IOS);
  • implementing minimum energy performance standards and labeling regulations; and
  • raising public awareness of means of reducing energy use.
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Other most frequently described mitigation options in this area include multi-sector carbon pricing, promoting circular economy, and fluorinated gas substitution.

For the agriculture sector, parties present a number of measures targeting emissions from fuel use and non-fuel sources such as livestock and soil management. These include: implementing sustainable soil management, including conservation and organic agriculture; applying management and technology solutions in crop cultivation and animal husbandry; and formulating nationally appropriate mitigation actions for sustainable, low-carbon, climate-resilient cattle farming.

Increased focus on adaptation

The synthesis report shows that in comparison with earlier NDCs, the adaptation component receives greater focus, particularly adaptation planning and national adaptation plans (NAPs). The NDCs also include more time-bound quantitative adaptation targets as well as associated indicator frameworks. Adaptation efforts are being increasingly linked with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Parties’ adaptation efforts focus on food security and production, terrestrial and wetland ecosystems, freshwater resources, human health, key economic sectors and services, coastal and low-lying areas, disaster risk management (DRM), urban areas and other human habitats, and ocean ecosystems.

The NDCs also elaborate on synergies and co-benefits between adaptation and mitigation. They present a number of adaptation actions and economic diversification plans with mitigation co-benefits. These address climate-smart agriculture, reducing food waste, vertical farming, adapting coastal ecosystems, increasing the share of renewable sources in energy generation, improving energy efficiency, CCS, fuel switch and fuel price reforms in the transport sector, and moving to circular economy for better waste management.

Means of implementation and NDCs’ conditionality

The report finds that NDCs of more than 90% of parties mention some or all of the means of implementation – finance, technology transfer, and capacity building. Some parties provide information on specific climate finance, technology, and capacity-building projects, including detailed information on financial and technical requirements, implementing entities, and timeframes. Some parties also highlight South-South, triangular, or regional cooperation as support mechanisms for NDC implementation.

Almost all parties provide information on finance for NDC implementation. Many characterising finance in terms of international support needed, including quantitative estimates thereof, with some noting financial needs across mitigation and adaptation sectors. Some parties differentiate between quantitative estimates for conditional components of their NDCs and those for unconditional actions that may be financed from domestic sources. Several parties mention finance in the context of providing financial support for other countries’ NDC implementation.

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Many parties provide qualitative information on how finance will be used, including earmarking public expenditure, establishing climate funds, or supporting financial systems. Some also include quantitative information on financial investment or expenditure to support their NDCs, such as on financing specific technology development funds, economy-wide budgetary programmes, or specific projects and needs for financial support.

A few parties refer to access to and mobilisation and use of financial resources in the context of cooperative approaches under Paris Agreement Article 6 (market and non-market mechanisms).

On technology, the NDCs provide information on: technology needs; specific technologies to be deployed; technology innovation, research, and development; technology-related policy, regulatory, and legal aspects; and support to be provided to other parties for technology development and transfer.

Specific technology needs mainly cover: agriculture; climate observation and early warning; energy; industry, infrastructure, and buildings; transport; and water. A few parties include information on their intended provision of support to developing countries for the development and diffusion of climate technologies.

The NDCs identify capacity-building needs for formulating policy, integrating mitigation and adaptation into sectoral planning processes, accessing finance, and providing specific information in NDCs. While most capacity-building needs span several sectors, some are sector-specific such as for buildings and infrastructure, forestry, and energy. Some parties emphasise the need to strengthen national ownership of capacity-building efforts to ensure sustainability and retention of capacity.

Addenda to the synthesis report include additional information on: the adaptation component of the NDCs; domestic mitigation measures; and the NDCs’ contribution towards achieving the objective of the Convention

The final version of the report, expected later this year, will include a comparison of the projected total emission levels resulting from implementation of all NDCs with different mitigation scenarios and indicators assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It will also include a comparison between implied future emissions and remaining cumulative emissions towards the 1.5°C and 2°C goals.

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