INDCs will fail to halt global emissions growth by 2030, but door still open to 2C -UNFCCC

Published 11:49 on October 30, 2015  /  Last updated at 15:58 on October 30, 2015  / Ben Garside /  Climate Talks, International

INDCs from the 147 parties submitted by Oct. 1 will result in global emissions continuing to rise over the next 15 years though keep the door open to reaching the 2C temperature rise goal, the UNFCCC said in a report on Friday summarising the submitted pledges.

INDCs from the 147 parties submitted by Oct. 1 will result in global emissions continuing to rise over the next 15 years though keep the door open to reaching the 2C temperature rise goal, the UNFCCC said in a report on Friday summarising the submitted pledges.

The aggregate report, published on the UN website, was requested by almost 200 nations ahead of the December UN climate talks, without any scrutiny of individual INDCs.

It found that with the INDCs fulfilled, global emissions would climb to 55 billion tonnes in 2025 and 57 billion tonnes in 2030, though growth in emissions is expected to slow down by a third in the 2010–2030 period compared to the period 1990–2010.

This would mean that by 2030 the world had reached 75% of the cumulative emission budget since 2011 that UN-backed scientists say is consistent with the 2C goal.

“Fully implemented these plans together begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions: as a floor they provide a foundation upon which ever higher ambition can be built,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, presenting the report at a press conference in Berlin.

“I am confident that these INDCs are not the final word in what countries are ready to do and achieve over time–the journey to a climate safe-future is underway and the Paris agreement to be inked in Paris can confirm, and catalyze that transition,” she said.

The report did not map the INDCs’ projected impact to global temperatures, but Figueres referred to the IEA’s work which suggested they would rise to 2.7C, down from pre-INDC estimates of 3-5C.

The report clearly illustrates the weakness of the bottom-up approach, said Hæge Fjellheim, senior analyst in the Point Carbon team at Thomson Reuters, also stressing that there seemed to be no alternative as a top-down approach of a global deal setting emission caps would be impossible to reach.

“A key question to be settled in Paris is how the level of ambition expressed in the INDCs could be increased over time. The targets will likely be reviewed with five year intervals, but the strength of the review mechanism is still to be decided in the final rounds of negotiation in Paris.  If major economies continue to tighten their reduction targets after Paris, we would see an upwards spiral towards higher collective ambition. While target-setting will continue to be a national exercise, the review and transparency-mechanisms of the Paris agreement will be important for creating both trust and pressure to ignite such a spiraling effect,” she added.

Climate justice groups said Figures’ positive spin was counterproductive.

“The governments have escaped meaningful scrutiny and have delayed adequate climate actions for so long. They do not need pats on their backs, instead they must be challenged to do so much more immediately. The world has only a small window of time to prevent catastrophic climate change and that window is fast closing,” said Nathan Thanki of the youth group Earth in Brackets in a statement.


Both Figueres and Germany’s top climate official Jochen Flasbarth stressed that more could be done if the Paris climate agreement included regular INDC reviews and said some nations had held back from the maximum potential in their INDCs.

“Some states did not put everything on the table that they could have. From our talks with China for instance, we know China has ambitions to achieve more but at an earlier stage … this is one of many elements that give rise to hope,” said Flasbarth.

“Many countries have been healthily conservative. They don’t want to expose themselves prematurely internationally… but they have the intention to do more,” added Figueres.


Figueres pointed out that over half the INDCs had mentioned their intention to use carbon markets (see our article on carbon markets in INDCs).

She said most emissions in future would come from the developing world but that the industrialised world must show leadership, responding to a Norwegian journalist who asked whether it was acceptible for rich countries such as hers to buy their their way out of their obligations by paying for emission reductions abroad.

Figueres said industrialised nations could do this by first cutting emissions at home, then by channelling public and private finance to the developing world and by using carbon market finance.

“This does not excuse any developed country from reducing emissions at home,” she added.

The current UN Kyoto Protocol features a so-called supplementarity principle that emission units bought from abroad shall be supplemental to domestic actions but this has not been defined in absolute terms.

It is unclear whether supplementarity will feature in the Paris climate agreement but the bottom-up nature of the process indicates that the actual value of supplementarity could be decided at the country level.

Key findings of the aggregate INDC report:

– Report captures the overall impact of national climate plans covering 146 countries as of Oct. 1. This comprises 119 separate INDCs from 147 Parties to the UNFCCC, including the EU, a single Party representing 28 countries.

– The 146 plans include all developed nations and three quarters of developing countries under the UNFCCC, covering 86% of global greenhouse gas emissions – almost four times the level of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

– Will bring global average emissions per capita down by as much as 8% in 2025 and 9% in by 2030.

– The majority of INDCs are national in scope and some include immediate action, underlining government recognition of the urgency to raise ambition before as well as after 2020, when the new climate change agreement takes effect.

– INDCs represent a substantial slowdown in emissions growth achieved in a cost effective way, making it still possible and affordable by 2030 to stay below a 2C temperature rise.

– INDCs are expected to slow emissions growth by approximately a third for 2010–2030 compared to the period 1990–2010, delivering emission reductions of around 4 billion tonnes by 2030 compared to pre-INDC scenarios.

– All industrialised country INDCs and many developing country INDCs are unconditional. Conditional contributions represent about 25% of the total range of emission reductions.

– All INDCs cover CO2 and many also cover methane, nitrous oxide and other potent greenhouse gases.

– The INDCs present climate actions across many sectors, such as decarbonising energy supply, and mainly through massive shifts to renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements, improved land management, urban planning and transport.

– Over half of all INDCs also include a long-term perspective on the transition toward economic growth based on low-emission, high resilience development.

– Many foresee near climate neutrality by 2050, which the UN said meant “a point where remaining human emissions are absorbed by natural systems, are stored or used”.

– Reflecting the need to factor existing climate change into national planning, 100 of the INDCs include measures to reduce vulnerability and build resilience.

– Countries with an adaptation component are pursuing efforts through a number of instruments, including climate change laws and regulations and national or sector plans and strategies. Sectors of highest concern are water resources, agriculture, health, ecosystems, and forestry.

– The INDCs do not indicate any locking in of the level of global emissions in 2030. Many nations will overachieve on goals set based on what is seen as achievable today.

– National contributions can be adjusted upwards over time, especially as mobilisation of climate finance and other forms of multilateral cooperation which are catalysed by the new Paris agreement will allow governments to go further and faster, even before 2030.

By Ben Garside –

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