Posted on 12 June 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably slowed progress in climate policy, internationally and domestically. Understandably, governments have been forced to focus on their response to an unprecedented health crisis.
At the international level, COP26 has been delayed to November 2021. This could affect the timeline for submission of revised national climate plans and emissions targets (called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) that countries must produce ‘by 2020’ as part of their commitments to the Paris Agreement. However, both the COVID-19 crisis as well as the delay in holding COP26 offer an opportunity to think about more ambitious climate pledges as well as using the force of the financial system and the economic stimulus packages for boosting national climate action.
By mid-2020, only 10 governments had submitted NDCs
As of the beginning of June this year, only 10 governments representing less than 5% of global emissions have pressed forward with work on their revised NDCs. These are intended to be more ambitious than the first NDCs, produced before the Paris talks in 2015, reflecting advances in climate science. The submissions so far have not lived up to that expectation.
Although dealing with the health emergency is the utmost priority at the moment, countries are in different phases and all of them will have to deal with recovery and stimulus packages to tackle the economic crisis.
NDCs must be incorporated in COVID-19 recovery packages
The pandemic has shown us that the pathway to systemic transition is not something for future discussions and decisions; it needs to be set in motion now. We believe NDCs must be brought to the center of those discussions as there is vast common ground between the two planning processes and lots to gain from an integrated approach: stimulus to the right sectors; building resilience of nature and people; improving quality of life; creating quality jobs, among others.
In this context, the transparency, clarity and understanding of NDCs gains even more importance. We shine a spotlight on all kinds of progress, encourage best practice, identify key challenges and call out laggards, with the goal of increasing the overall ambition of the process.
WWF’s #NDCsWeWant checklist
Today, we are share a new website #NDCsWeWant
, and a checklist
to benchmark these revised NDCs as they are published. We propose 20 mostly qualitative factors, grouped into five sections:
- Ambition – Have countries strengthened their targets? Are budgets aligned with a 1.5°C world? Are they aligned with Net Zero long-term strategies? Does the NDC include adaptation objectives and finance goals?
- Fostering systemic change – Does the NDC establish a framework and targets to shift sectors and systems towards a low-carbon future? Does it ensure a just transition for workers and communities in carbon-intensive sectors? Does it include enabling sectors, such as education, health and social development?
- Inclusiveness and participation – Are there mechanisms to ensure the involvement of civil society, business, financial sector and subnational governments, and citizens in the NDC revision process? Is there a governance structure planned or in place? *Note: We know this criterion will be especially challenging in the current COVID-19 crisis scenario. We expect governments to make full use of technology and innovative solutions. We also urge developed countries and donors to consider supporting such processes.
- Contribution to sustainable development – Does the NDC recognise linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals? Does it make use of nature-based solutions to climate change, as a complement to (rather than in place of) ambitious emissions reductions?
- Tracking Progress – Does the NDC set out a national system or a proposal for one that allows for progress to be tracked and verified, as well as the contribution of the wide spectrum of actors taking action (civil society, business, subnational governments, other institutions and citizens)?
The ultimate test of an NDC is, of course, that it delivers against the 1.5°C ambition of the Paris Agreement. WWF fully endorses this objective.
It is expected that most NDCs to be submitted in this cycle won't be at that point, which doesn't mean no advances were made. Our aim is to set a clear and constructive benchmark for an incremental but leap-frog progress towards this goal. It assesses some of the process and structural elements and enabling conditions which lay the proper foundations for an effective long-term response to the climate crisis.
Importantly, we believe the checklist will enable us to continue conversations with governments and other stakeholders on key aspects of NDCs that wouldn't be assessed if 1.5˚C alignment was our only criteria. These conversations can help to build capacity and confidence within governments to improve NDCs and increase their climate ambition.
We invite all countries to make full use of it in their revision processes in 2020.
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF global leader climate and energy.
Fernanda de Carvalho, WWF global policy lead climate and energy.
For further information contact Mandy Jean Woods firstname.lastname@example.org.
View all the NDCs that have been assessed so far.