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Updates of NDCs underway globally in line with provisions of Paris Agreement

It is five years now since the global community adopted the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change in December 2015. Among other things, it established a goal to limit average global temperature rise to well below 2˚ degrees Celsius, possibly keep it at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Paris Agreement
Jubilation greeted the adoption of the Paris Agreement in December 2015 in Paris, France. Photo credit: unfccc.int

To reach this goal, countries had earlier documented and submitted their proposals referred to as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UN. After the Paris Agreement came into force, the INDCs were converted to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for countries who ratify it. The NDCs showcase an expression of each country’s efforts including targets, measures and policies to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

As part of provisions under the Paris Agreement, countries are expected to submit an updated NDC every five years, which will represent a progression beyond their current NDC to reflect its highest possible ambitions.

First round of NDCs updates underway globally

For the first time, countries are in the process of updating their NDCs. So far, four countries namely: Norway, Suriname, Marshall Islands and Moldova have completed and submitted their updated NDCs to the UN, in accordance with the relevant Paris Agreement provisions.

The need for this review arises because it is generally accepted that the initial commitments that countries submitted were not enough to avoid crossing over dangerous temperature thresholds – currently putting the world on track to 3 degrees Celsius of warming or more. According to the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, “even a half-degree of difference in global temperature rise will have profound impacts on sea level rise, biodiversity and extreme weather events”.

That is why it is critical that the current NDCs enhancement process delivers faster, deeper greenhouse gas emission reductions and prepare for global warming’s impacts. The on-going reviews and updates play a crucial role in charting this course as stronger NDCs can create the policy context to steer investments and attract climate finance. Additionally, they can provide transparency and accountability through national and multilateral processes.

In Ghana, formal consultations for the review process to update Ghana’s Nationally Determined Contributions (GH NDCs) will start in the first week of November and is scheduled to end in March 2021. The purpose is to make the process as participatory as possible and also instill ownership of the updated commitments in all segments of the Ghanaian population such as government institutions, the private sector and civil society.

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The Environmental Protection Agency/Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (EPA/MESTI) is leading the review process.

CSOs initiative to appreciate the review process

The civil society organisations (CSOs) group, which represents mainly grassroots populations and provide a voice for the voiceless, has a key role to play in the review process.  However, the group needs to have full grasp of the issues involved and better appreciate the essence of the review, so as to actively participate in the process and make meaningful contribution, especially in key sessions of the NDCs where their contributions will be most impactful.

Therefore, Kasa Initiative Ghana and Civic Response organised a GH NDCs sensitisation meeting for CSOs operating within the natural resources sector, especially those with climate actions. The meeting, which took place on Friday, October 9, 2020, served as the initial step for CSOs to discuss how the group can effectively participate in and contribute towards updating the current GH NDCs Framework into a stronger and more focused Framework.

Essence and reasons for the revision of the NDCs

The Deputy Director of EPA’s Climate Change Unit, Dr. Daniel Tutu Benefoh, was the Resource Person. He took participants through the GH NDCs, saying, Ghana submitted her INDCs in 2015 to the UN, joined the Paris Agreement in December 2015 and ratified it in August 2016. Subsequently, the INDCs became the country’s first NDCs.

Dr. Benefoh said the review gives Ghana the chance to incorporate the areas that are missing in the existing GH NDCs and highlighted three specific reasons demanding the review of her NDCs.

The first is that the country’s current NDCs did not include anything on any mitigation actions in the agricultural and industry sector, hence the need to capture such actions in the updated version of the GH NDCs. Secondly, the country now has a clear policy on industrialization and stakeholders could decide to incorporate a new action on that.

The third and what he considers as the most important reason is the issue of enabling the effective implementation of the earlier NDCs that the country is committed to. His argument is that since the country’s committed actions in 2016, were not implemented, there is no need for additional or new ones to be developed.

“Rather, the focus should be on removing the barriers that prevented the implementation of the earlier actions. Otherwise, every five years, countries will just give a wish list that will remain unfulfilled,” Dr. Benefoh stated.

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He explained that “if these lists of actions are not implemented, countries cannot attain their NDCs targets or commitments, therefore they will not attain the global goal or target of a global temperature below 2-degree C.”

Therefore, Dr, Benefoh proposed that, internationally, the revision of the NDCs should focus on removing barriers to their implementation and not just adding to them. “Revision of the NDCs must call for countries to further remove the barriers that prevent them from fully implementing those commitments, he urged, and noted that “otherwise the NDCs become a wish list, with no practical impact on the people, and hence, lose their credibility.”

And if this happens two things will suffer – the climate and the poor people in whose name the commitments have been made will continue to suffer, because there will be no action on the ground.

“So, as much as the opportunity to revise the NDCs are good, it is also a way to further do everything possible to push forward the effective implementation of these actions on the ground to impact poor and vulnerable people, and at the same time combat climate change,” Dr. Benefoh emphasised.  

Components of the GH NDCs Review Process

According to Dr. Benefoh, Ghana’s NDCs review process will be done in three phases. Phase one involves an assessment of the first or current GH NDCs submitted in 2016, to know the progress made, the achievements and the challenges. And on that basis stakeholders who led in committing the country to these set of actions will be engaged. He explained that the essence of the consultations is to bring everybody on board based on the concept of “A Whole Ghana Approach,” to get the best out of this review process.

Phase two is the diagnostic part to highlight major milestones and challenges of the first NDCs and use the findings to engage the Ministries, agencies and stakeholders. Dr. Benefoh said phases one and two would be done concurrently to accelerate the pace of the consultations.

The third phase comprises a technical revision for the new GH NDCs and development of a Revision Report. This Report will be used to engage high political authorities for the final approval before submission to the UN. Dr. Benefoh explained that “the high-level engagement will not just focus on the revised NDCs but will discuss three broad level topics that highlight very practical issues of concern.

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The first is to establish the consequences of those actions on the country in terms of job creation, job losses and social impacts. The second is to highlight the overall cost implications for the state and establish the country’s ability to afford these commitments in the revised NDCs. If it is established that the country can afford, it will be determined how much the state will be willing to put into the implementation for the next five years or 10 years and how much it can give to the public sector for implementation. The last will discuss how government will mobilise support for these financial commitments.

What is expected of the CSO group in the review process?

On the issue of the role of CSOs in the review process, Dr. Benefoh indicated that the engagement with this group would focus on several questions. These are: what is the exact role CSOs want to play in the NDCs revision; what are the issues they expect must be addressed fully in the process; who do CSOs think must lead in mobilising finances for effective implementation; and whether CSOs intend to have their own NDCs action or would want to effectively work together with the state actors?

And should the CSO group want to work with the state actors, what specific role would they want to play?  Would CSOs want to play a role in mobilizing the grass roots or would they want to do advocacy, outreach or capacity building?

Way forward for the CSO group

The consensus was that while CSOs wait for the general consultations to begin in November, members should do a gap analysis on each thematic area that must be address in the revised GH NDCs. Such thematic analysis will ensure that critical areas that need to stand out are not overlooked.

The conversation also touched on how CSOs can operationalized and roll out the thematic analysis. It was agreed that the process will require several follow up meetings, to bring other interested experts on board to further deliberate on the results of the gap analysis, outline recommendations and highlight identified commitments.

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

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