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NDCs and global stocktake

In Paris in December 2015, countries adopted the historic international climate agreement at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21). Ahead of this moment, countries outlined what post-2020 climate actions they intended to take under the new international agreement. ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ identified the pledges and actions national governments intend to take under the Paris Agreement. They represented the basis of post-2020 global emissions reduction commitments included in the climate agreement. It was in 2013, at COP19 in Warsaw, that the acronym “INDC” was first introduced. The term “contributions” emerged as a compromise between “QUELRO’’- quantified emissions limitation and reduction objective – and “NAMAs’’- or nationally appropriate mitigation actions. INDCs refer both to developed and developing countries’ plans.

INDCs are now named NDCs, Nationally Determined Contributions, as the Agreement is being enforced since November 2016. In addition to the steps they are taking and those they will take to reduce emissions at national level, countries might also address other issues, such as undertakings in adaptation planning. As of now, when intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) are aggregated, they are not yet sufficient to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C. The pledges will therefore need to be more ambitious. Countries are expected to submit an updated NDC every five years to represent a progression beyond the country’s then current NDC and reflect its highest possible ambition.

The submitted NDCs, which take the shape of a document submitted by the countries, show a diverse range of actions and targets. While it is encouraging to see the large range of actions countries are committing to, this diversity has also presented something of a challenge as countries are now working to various schedules and baselines. This makes their cumulative impact difficult to measure. In the context of COP22, countries are now making a start on creating a more uniform set of features for all future NDCs. A key focus area of COP22 is therefore providing guidance on the information NDCs should provide to ensure that they are as clear and transparent as they can possibly can be. Furthermore, as to tack progress, it is crucial for NDCs to show how they offer a progression on the previous ones as well as to provide information on how the NDCs fit within national planning processes. COP22 is therefore also expected to determining consistent terminology and methods.

The periodically assessment of the collective progress towards meeting the long-term goals of the deal is called the global stocktake and represents one of the most important elements of the Paris Agreement. The stocktakes are part of the ‘ratchet mechanism’, which permits countries to raise ambitions on climate change over time, and the first global stocktake will take place in 2023. As a new feature of the UN climate talks, it also needs to be defined and countries are discussing the form and content of the stocktake here at COP22.