Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries unanimously agreed to work toward global goals that would limit global average temperature rise. Specifically, the Agreement seeks to limit the rise in the world’s average surface temperatures to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial times this century, while “pursuing efforts” for 1.5°C. It also sets a target of eliminating global GHG emissions by the second half of the century – or at least compensating any residual emissions through, for example, forest growth.
A key principle in the Paris Agreement is that no country should backslide on its intentions, which were put forward in climate action plans known as “Nationally Determined Contributions”, or NDCs. The NDCs describe each country’s self-determined strategy for curbing GHG emissions, typically in five- or ten-year periods (i.e., currently until 2025 or 2030). Most also include plans to increase resilience. Individually, NDCs represent each country’s climate priorities and vision for achieving sustainable development. Aggregated, they represent the world’s collective efforts to fight climate change. However current NDCs are estimated to collectively result in a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees C by 2100.
All countries are expected to submit increasingly ambitious NDCs every five years, often described as a “ratchet mechanism”. A first opportunity to do so is in 2020. Achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals will require an emissions peak as soon as possible, followed by sharp reductions in GHG emissions. Therefore, many see high ambition in 2020 as fundamental to get on track to 1.5°C and counter a worrying trend of rising emissions. The transformative climate action required needs a global commitment to raising ambition, articulated in the next generation of NDCs, to create economic drivers that shift investments away from fossil fuel use and carbon-intensive practices.
Furthermore, many changes have occurred since the current NDCs were prepared that may provide a strong technical and economic rationale for revising the NDC. Sectoral and market trends – for example, the dramatic fall in technology costs for renewable energy and batteries – is likely to have significant impact on the prioritization of NDC actions and/or target-setting. Countries may have improved cost estimates, or wish to highlight sustainable development benefits, such as improved health or livelihoods, while those with long-term strategies have defined a new pathway toward net-zero emissions.
In the lead-up to the UN Climate Summit, UNDP and UNFCCC released the most comprehensive review to date of global ambition. The joint report, The Heat is On, revealed:
75 countries (representing 37% of global GHG emissions) intended to raise ambition through either mitigation or adaptation or both;
37 countries (16%) intended to update information in their NDCs;
71 countries (21%, including most developed nations) were either undecided on their approach, provided no information, or were seeking support for the NDC revision process; and
14 countries (26%) had no plans to revise their current NDCs.
The report reiterated that the choices made on ambition in 2020 would have profound consequences for future generations and required the world to move beyond business-as-usual as quickly as possible. It also highlighted that 2020 intentions represent a ladder of opportunity where advocacy efforts could potentially be undertaken at each level to persuade a country to undertake a positive step-change in ambition, e.g. a country that had no plans to revise its NDC submit an updated one, a country focused on adaptation ambition also increases mitigation ambition, etc.
UNDP is well-positioned to support countries on these efforts, with a long track record of supporting NDC processes globally, which has led to insights on critical bottlenecks, key success factors, emerging trends and anticipated support needs. In 2014, UNDP and UNFCCC jointly launched a series of regional technical dialogues that provided a neutral space for countries to share experiences on NDCs and build trust. In all, 22 dialogues have been held, attracting 2200+ participants from 150 countries. UNDP also assisted 43 countries to submit intended NDCs in 2015 and now supports 63 countries to strengthen core elements of NDC architecture, such as gender-responsive institutional coordination, whole-of-government approaches, strengthened transparency systems, and mainstreaming of NDC targets. These efforts are underpinned by a $3.2BN grant-financed portfolio of climate action in 142 countries.
In response, UNDP announced it would leverage its extensive climate portfolio and scale up urgently-needed support for NDC enhancement in 100 countries, working in close collaboration with UN system partners (e.g. UNEP, FAO, UNICEF), IRENA, the NDC Partnership, the Green Climate Fund, and other strategic partners. An integrated approach will be used that harnesses the wide-ranging expertise of UNDP’s Global Policy Network to strengthen climate solutions with perspectives from governance, health, water, gender equality, women’s and youth empowerment, disaster risk reduction, and inclusive growth, among others.
A structured approach to NDC enhancement, which can be tailored to country context and sectoral priorities, serves as the framework for UNDP’s services under the Climate Promise (Figure 1). It is not anticipated that UNDP will support a comprehensive NDC review process in every country supported under the Promise. Rather, Country Offices will consult with governments to identify the most strategic and impactful responses to national priorities, while also supporting mitigation ambition.
Promise support will strategically augment other relevant ongoing activities, as appropriate, especially where other partners have a leading role on NDC enhancement. Where a country is receiving no assistance, UNDP may offer a fuller range of support.
The five core tasks of the NDC enhancement process are briefly described below, followed by information on UNDP’s service offer. Climate Action Tracker  After being static from 2014 to 2016, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose to historic highs in 2018 according to the IEA 2019 Global Energy and CO2 Status Report, driven by higher energy consumption