Cop 27: NDC updates stumble despite pact

Only a small number of countries updated their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) either during or in the run-up to last month’s UN Cop 27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, as wider mitigation ambition at the summit proved tepid.

The Glasgow Climate Pact agreed at Cop 26 last year requested countries revise and increase their 2030 NDC targets, the urgency of which was underscored a few days before Cop 27 by the UN’s NDC synthesis report showing that the pledges submitted before the event were still insufficient to meet the 1.5°C target. The 2015 Paris climate agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and ideally to 1.5°C.

But despite optimism from US climate envoy John Kerry that the summit would see firm progress on the issue, just five countries submitted official updates to their NDCs during Cop 27 itself — Timor Leste, Vietnam, Andorra, the Bahamas and Mexico.

A further four countries — Chile, the UAE, Kazakhstan and Turkey — announced their intention to update their NDCs at Cop 27, but official documents have not yet been submitted to the UN.

Largest emitters lag

This represents a marked absence of updates from the world’s biggest economies, with Mexico and Turkey the only G20 members to have announced NDC revisions during the summit.

Mexico said it would cut its GHGs by 35pc by the end of this decade compared with 2000 levels, while Turkey committed to cut its emissions by 41pc by 2030 compared with a business as usual scenario, up from its previous target presented in October last year of a 21pc cut by the same date. But the country did not say when the new NDC would be submitted.

Australia had updated its 2030 NDC ahead of the conference in June, but its new target still falls short of the 75pc cut needed to help limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.

India formalised the commitments it had made at Cop 26 in an NDC submission in August.

The UK “strengthened” its NDC delivery plan in September, but did not increase its emissions cut targets. UK government advisory body the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warned in a post-Cop 27 report this week that “tangible progress has not been demonstrated across a host of areas necessary to meet the UK’s 2030 NDC”.

Other NDC updates hinge somewhat on awaited political developments. In Brazil, the election of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to be the country’s next president has built expectations that it will develop a more ambitious, transparent and socially inclusive NDC for 2030.

Brazil only updated its NDC in April, but there are concerns surrounding the credibility of the document.

The EU indicated at Cop 27 that it will update its emissions cut targets only after negotiations between the European Commission, parliament and council on planned reforms to its emissions trading system are complete.

Methane in focus

One area that did see an increase in commitments at Cop 27, albeit largely outside the NDC framework, was methane emissions cuts.

The US during the summit pledged $20bn to tackle methane emissions, while a group of countries committed to “dramatically” reduce methane, CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) across the fossil fuel chain.

The US, the EU, the UK, Japan, Canada, Norway and Singapore also called for robust reporting and measurement, and for organisations to join the UN’s oil and gas methane partnership — a reporting framework for the oil and gas sector.

China signalled a new direction, after choosing not to sign the Global Methane Pledge launched at Cop 26. The country, the world’s biggest emitter of methane from fossil fuel operations, released a strategic plan to curb its methane emissions early on at Cop 27, although it is unclear to what extent this will involve mitigation from the coal sector.

A report from the UN, released during Cop, found that global methane emissions will rise by as much as 13pc by 2030, from current levels.

Weak conclusions

But overall progress on mitigation ambition at this year’s summit was tepid. The final Cop 27 deal simply reiterated the need to reduce GHGs by 43pc by 2030 relative to 2019 levels, unchanged from pledges made at Cop 26.

Nations in the high level ambition coalition unsuccessfully pushed for the Cop 27 text to include stronger NDCs aligned with the 1.5°C limit goal, mentions of efforts for global emissions to peak by 2025 and a pledge to phase down fossil fuels. EU negotiators had also sought to make the creation of a loss and damage fund conditional on new updated emission reduction targets under the mitigation work programme.

The final deal did “not bring enough added efforts from major emitters to increase and accelerate their emissions cuts”, EU executive vice-president and lead climate negotiator Frans Timmermans said following the conclusion of the agreement, warning that a lot of speed had been lost since Cop 26.

The CCC said in its post-Cop 27 report that the Glasgow Climate Pact’s request to revisit and strengthen 2030 targets “has been met in a very limited way, with progress stalled on keeping the 1.5°C temperature goal within reach”.

Non-governmental organisation the Environmental Defence Fund had expected to see more revised NDCs than were eventually put forward, the group’s vice president for global climate co-operation Mandy Rambharos told Argus.

It is “no big surprise that the attention has been on the immediate issues” of the food and energy crises, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and coming not long after countries began to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, Rambharos said.

NDCs ‘avenue’ for action

But NDCs “provide a good avenue” to chart a course through which the climate crisis and the energy, food and water crises can be solved simultaneously, and this narrative needs to be driven more strongly, Rambharos said.

EDF is “cautiously optimistic” that more countries could come forward with more ambitious programmes.

“We saw a strong demonstration of possible solutions and initiatives from a broad range of stakeholders at the Cop,” Rambharos said. “We are encouraged that this provides direction of the range of actions countries can avail themselves to raise the ambition of climate action.”

Next year’s Global Stocktake is a good opportunity to encourage this, Rambharos added. The two-year process, designed to take stock of the implementation of the Paris climate agreement, began at Cop 26 and will be finalised at next year’s Cop 28 conference in the UAE.

Source : Argus media


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