Countries delay upping climate action even as forests burn, cities flood and lands parch

Posted on 03 August 2021

Only 58% of countries have submitted revised NDCs to the UN up to end of July, says UN Climate Change

(2 August 2021) - Pressure is mounting on political leaders to ratchet up climate ambition in their country's Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to align with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement, even as  countries around the world grapple with the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. 


As the world counts down to the landmark COP26, NDCs provide an opportunity to translate big picture climate goals into concrete policies, financial commitments and measures by which emissions are reduced, and climate resilience is enhanced. 


COP26, scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November this year, is shaping up to be the most important conference since the Paris Agreement was approved in 2015. It will be almost two years since negotiators have met face to face, at a time the world’s attention on the environment has been refocused due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and widespread calls for a green recovery. This is also the first COP since the United States, the world’s second-biggest emitter, rejoined the Paris Agreement, and marks the first ‘accounting’ of progress against the Paris Agreement goals following the completion of the first 5-year ratchet cycle.  


“With the world experiencing increasing record-breaking temperatures and devastating fires, floods, heatwaves and droughts affecting millions of people, the urgency to ramp up climate action is indisputable. The evidence is all there and, according to some estimates, the NDCs submitted so far put us on a trajectory to 2.4˚C global warming - twice the warming we are currently experiencing. We need countries to do much more to avoid that future,” says WWF Global Policy Manager for Climate & Energy Fernanda de Carvalho.


According to UN Climate Change, only 110, or little over half (58%) of all member countries, covering 54% of global emissions, submitted new or updated NDCs by the deadline of 30 July. These will be included in a second Synthesis Report to be published in September, just weeks ahead of COP26. The first Synthesis Report was published in February, and assessed the impact of the 75 member countries who had submitted updated NDCs by the first deadline of December 2020.


“Although the number of submissions provides an important story about commitment to climate action, so too does the quality and ambition held within, as well as the amount of total emissions they represent. So far, in many countries, the NDC process exposes the vast gap between words and promises and real action on the ground,” says WWF NDC Enhancement Coordinator Shirley Matheson.

A number of countries, including 22 that submitted NDCs in July, have complied with the July 30 deadline to be included in the Second Synthesis Report, which is commendable. “But there are still important absences such as China, India and South Africa. Countries with lower capability and responsibility are the ones stepping up, with 13 NDCs submitted in July coming from African countries. WWF urges countries that didn't make use of this opportunity to present enhanced NDCs ahead of COP 26,” says Matheson. 


Notes for Editors

  1. In an effort to foster NDC enhancement, WWF developed the #NDCsWeWant Checklist to benchmark updated NDCs. WWF also provides resources to support enhancing NDCs in several areas, including regionally focused guidelines for decision-makers, and assessments of NDC submissions including the Force for Nature series. 
  2. China, the United States and the European Union are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and each are at different stages of the NDC process. China has announced an increased target, though is yet to submit an NDC, while the US published theirs in April. The EU’s updated NDC made it into the first Synthesis Report, and it subsequently released the ‘Fit for 55’ package, setting out proposals for climate and energy laws to support meeting their emissions reduction target. 
  3. No G20 country has yet demonstrated an ambitious NDC. (G20 countries represent 60% of the world’s population, 80% of the world GDP and 75% of global exports). G20 Climate and Energy Ministers, meeting in Naples on 27 July, issued a communiqué in which they “agreed to update or communicate ambitious NDCs by COP26. According to WWF’s Checklist assessment, six G20 countries turned in a poor effort, with Japan, Brazil and Russia in particular delivering disappointing NDCs. WWF is urging that these be revised ahead of COP26. Five more G20 countries are still to submit a new or updated NDC (including Turkey, which is also yet to ratify the Paris Agreement). Argentina and the UK have submitted NDCs which, while well received, could do more. We urge other countries to redouble their efforts to renew or update their NDCs with Paris Agreement aligned ambition, particularly the G20 countries. WWF applauds South Africa, China and the Republic of Korea for announcing increased ambition and setting long term targets, but for this to hold credibility it must be backed by ambitious and transformative short-term planning and action through the NDCs process. Likewise, as COP26 approaches, the brighter the spotlight needs to shine on the remaining members: India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, who are yet to set any new targets and on Indonesia, which has already signalled it will not submit greater ambition. 
  4. We can celebrate the efforts of Rwanda, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Suriname who, while not G20 countries, have submitted ambitious proposals.
  5. Climate Action Tracker estimates suggest that current pledges and targets would result in 2.4˚C of warming by 2100.
For further information, contact Mandy Jean Woods
Renewable energy and nature-based solutions should feature in all national climate plans.
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