Developing countries leading ambitious action to address climate change

July 29, 2015

Carbon reduction targets known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) will form the basis of negotiations on a new global climate deal to be agreed at the end of this year, which will succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Countries have been invited to voluntarily submit these national plans for climate action, ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris in December, known as COP21 (21st Conference of the Parties). For developing countries, INDCs present a rare opportunity to influence the shape of the new international climate regime, and at the same time accelerate their transition to resilient low carbon economies.

Some argue that the fate of the world in the face of dangerous climate change will be determined by the actions of the largest emitters. However, actions taken by some of the poorest and most climate vulnerable countries will be important for building political momentum for COP21, and for exerting political and moral pressure on large and historic emitters to pledge ambitious action. Indeed INDC preparations are well underway across many of the least developed countries.

The PwC-led Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) is supporting INDC preparations in nine developing countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia, working closely with developing country governments as they prepare their INDCs for submission by the beginning of October this year. Since July 2011, CDKN’s Negotiations Support programme has been providing legal, strategic, technical and practical support to negotiators from these countries. Funded by the Climate Window of the UK Department for International Development’s Advocacy Fund, it seeks to support positive changes in the influence that the poorest and most climate vulnerable countries have in securing an international climate deal in 2015, and beyond.

CDKN support has contributed to the first INDC submission by a Least Developed Country  (the group of 48 lowest income countries in the world)– Ethiopia; and to the first INDC submission by a Small Island Developing State– the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

Ethiopia, one of the most climate vulnerable countries in Africa, has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 64% from business-as-usual emissions by 2030. This massive reduction will be driven by improvements in land use and completion of the giant Renaissance Dam on the Nile. This is very ambitious for a country whose emissions are a very small portion of total global emissions.

The Marshall Islands has set an absolute economy-wide target to reduce emissions by 45% below 2010 levels, by the year 2030. Again, the global environmental impact of the RMI’s commitment may well be minor relative to the major economies. However, the target carries a powerful political message: that all countries are should aiming for ambitious reduction targets, regardless of size. By being the first developing country to set an absolute economy-wide emission reduction target, the RMI has shown it's possible for growing developing countries to set an ambitious emissions target.  The question is how many other countries, especially the largest emitters, will match the approach.

INDCs done well and in an inclusive manner have the potential to shape the future development paths for many countries as an expression of investment needs. In its latest working paper, Supporting ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contributions: Lessons learned from developing countries, CDKN summarises some of the key learning points that have emerged from this diverse experience. We hope this will inform activities in the lead up to Paris COP21 and beyond.

This blog was first posted on the Climate and Development Knowledge Network 


Sam Bickersteth | Director
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