Uncertainty about conditional NDCs heightens risks to the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement’s success depends on Parties’ implementation of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards the Agreement’s goals. No less than 136 of these climate action plans are conditional on receiving one or more types of support (climate finance, technology transfer, capacity building), which puts achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals at greater risk. On the other hand, equity in the Paris Agreement can be enhanced through developed countries’ support for NDC implementation in developing countries. Our new paper addresses the implications of this tension between feasibility and equity based on data from the NDC Explorer.

We find that feasibility of NDC implementation is challenged because developing countries often do not define the conditions in their NDCs well. Moreover, the costs of implementing all conditional contributions far exceeds the existing funding pledged by developed countries. Developed countries pledged to mobilise US$100 billion per year to support developing countries’ mitigation and adaptation efforts from 2020 onwards. Yet even in the unlikely event that this entire amount would be used for NDC implementation, the $100 billion target would cover only about 23% of the partly conditional NDCs.

The Paris Agreement includes important provisions to guide equitable allocation of support by prioritising Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for support. NDCs reflect these priorities, as a higher proportion of LDCs and SIDS have conditional NDCs than other countries. However, our analysis also demonstrates that there are significant differences between existing patterns of financial assistance and those implied by requests under conditional NDCs, particularly for adaptation. This means that supporting NDCs may require a significant shift in provider countries’ priorities for allocating climate finance.

We therefore expect tensions between feasibility and equity to arise in efforts to implement conditional NDCs. To counter this, the risks associated with conditionality can be addressed in at least four ways.

First, countries should build shared understandings about what contributions could be conditional. The Katowice Climate Package provides mitigation-centric guidance on NDC formulation and leaves conditionality unaddressed. However, NDC guidance will be revisited in 2024.

Second, in order to implement current NDCs, countries requesting support should flesh out their support needs. They should set out more credible cost estimates and have sufficiently detailed and feasible investment plans in place.

Third, provider countries should scale up capacity-building to support the preparation of future NDCs, including the identification of low-cost contributions and estimating implementation costs..

Finally, developed countries should orient climate finance explicitly towards supporting developing countries’ efforts to implement their NDCs. Relatedly, when updating their NDCs, developed countries and other countries in a position to provide support could add informative outlines of planned provision of support.

Outlining such intended provision of support would help to address equity. Furthermore, it would acknowledge the fact that support is a contribution towards achieving the objective of the Paris Agreement, and it would reassure developing countries that it is possible for them to raise the ambition of successive NDCs and implement them successfully.

Read the full paper in Climate Policy:

Pieter Pauw works for the FS-UNEP Centre at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, and is an associate at Stockholm Environment Institute and Utrecht University.

Shikha Bhasin is Programme Lead at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a New Delhi-based research organisation.

Jonathan Pickering is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Canberra, an Associate of the ANU Climate Change Institute and a Visiting Fellow at the ANU Development Policy Centre.

Paula Castro is Chair of Political Economy and Development, University of Zurich and Centre for Comparative and International Studies.

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