Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)

  • Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) is a term used under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that all countries that signed the UNFCCC were asked to publish in the lead-up to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, France, in December 2015.
  • Under the Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015, the INDC will become the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) when a country ratifies the agreement unless it decides to submit a new NDC at the same time.
  • Once the Paris Agreement is ratified, the NDC will become the first greenhouse gas targets under the UNFCCC that applied equally to both developed and developing countries.
  • On 3 August 2016, China and the US ratified the agreement. Together, they both constitute 38% of total global emission, with China alone emitting 20%.
  • India, with 4.1% of emissions, ratified the Paris Agreement on October 2, 2016 by depositing the instrument of ratification with the United Nations.
  • The climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement: to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

INDCs pair national policy setting — in which countries determine their contributions in the context of their national priorities, circumstances and capabilities — with a global framework under the Paris Agreement that drives collective action toward a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future.

The INDCs create a constructive feedback loop between national and international decision-making on climate change.

INDCs are the primary means for governments to communicate internationally the steps they will take to address climate change in their own countries. INDCs reflect each country’s ambition for reducing emissions, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities. Some countries also address how they’ll adapt to climate change impacts, and what support they need from, or will provide to, other countries to adopt low-carbon pathways and to build climate resilience.

The word “intended” was used because countries were communicating proposed climate actions ahead of the Paris Agreement being finalized. However as countries formally join the Paris Agreement and look forward to implementation of these climate actions – the “intended” is dropped and an INDC is converted into a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

This conversion happens when a country submits its respective instrument of ratification, accession, or approval to join the Paris Agreement.

Under the provisions of the Paris Agreement, countries will be expected to submit an updated NDC every five years, which will represent a progression beyond the country’s then current NDC to reflect its highest possible ambition.

The INDCs combine the top-down system of a United Nations climate agreement with bottom-up system-in elements through which countries put forward their agreements in the context of their own national circumstances, capabilities and priorities, within the ambition to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

The INDCs contain steps taken towards emission reductions and also aim to address steps taken to adapt to climate change impacts, and what support the country needs, or will provide, to address climate change. After the initial submission of INDCs in March 2015, an assessment phase followed to review the impact of the submitted INDCs before the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

On 27 February 2015, Switzerland became the first nation to submit its INDC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Switzerland said that they had experienced a temperature rise of 1.75 °C since 1864, and aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.

India submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the UNFCCC in October 2015, committing to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels. On its submission, India wrote that it needs “at least USD 2.5 trillion” to achieve its 2015-2030 goals, and that its “international climate finance needs” will be the difference over “what can be made available from domestic sources.

The INDCs of the largest greenhouse gas emitters included China, which targeted a 60-65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 2030, the United States, which targeted a 26-28% reduction by 2025 and the European Union which targeted a 40% reduction compared to 1990 by 2030.

A report from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) made the following recommendations to integrate international climate change commitments into national development planning:

  • NDCs should be consistent with national development policies
  • NDCs should follow SMART design principles
  • NDCs should have broad national support
  • NDCs should have clear political backing
  • NDC development should have clear institutional leadership
  • National coordination for climate change and development actions should exist
  • NDC institutions should respond to local development needs
  • NDC spending should be part of national budget planning
  • NDC spending should be monitored and reported
  • NDC spending should be subject to national oversight and scrutiny





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