Eiffel Tower with "For the planet" lettering

NDCs – a key tool for international climate change mitigation

How nationally determined contributions (NDCs) function and how they contribute to the mitigation of the global impacts of climate change.

In 2015, the countries of the world signed the Paris Agreement, committing themselves to climate change-related, nationally determined contributions (NDCs, Art. 4). This in itself was a great success, because since then all the countries in the world have submitted national climate change mitigation goals for the first time.

However, great challenges still exist: on the one hand, the climate change mitigation measures contained in the NDCs are difficult to compare, as some countries have chosen business-wide mitigation goals compared to a base year, others have announced mitigation measures compared to “business-as-usual” scenarios, while still others have chosen climate change mitigation measures in individual sectors, such as transport and forest conservation. On a voluntary basis, countries not only have formulated goals for the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions but also goals for adaptation to the impacts of climate change. On the other hand, scientific analyses such as the 1.5° Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also send a clear message: The total of the climate change mitigation measures and goals of the countries are not yet good enough to limit global warming to well below 2°C or possibly 1.5°C.


Politicians on the stage of the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris
The Paris Climate Change Convention was a great success for the international community. Photo: BMU/Sascha Hilgers

NDCs must be continuously enhanced

Based on current climate change mitigation goals, emissions are expected to increase even further by 2030 and long-term global warming is expected to be around 3°C. At the time the Paris Agreement was signed, it was already known that the NDCs in their entirety would not be sufficient to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. For this reason, the countries agreed in Paris to review their NDCs for improvement and further development (increased ambition), to submit information at a later date and to either update or resubmit their contributions by 2020 at the latest. Countries have also been invited to present their long-term strategies (LTS) in 2020. The development and implementation of LTS play a crucial role in the transition to a low-carbon future with sustainable economic growth in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement not only provides for an increase in ambition for 2020, but the contracting states must also submit their NDCs every five years from then on, ensuring that the international community will continue to strengthen its climate change mitigation efforts in the years to come. Two years before each country submits its NDCs, a comprehensive global stocktake of the progress made towards the achievement of the Paris Agreement goals will be carried out.This global stocktake is intended to help the parties determine whether or not they are fully on the right track for climate mitigation, climate adaptation and climate finance. The results of this analysis thus provide the direction for updating the NDCs.

Transparency framework for uniform climate reporting

Scientific studies, in particular the most recent IPCC reports, as well as summaries of the country reports serve as the information basis for the global stocktake. To achieve comparability of the countries’ reports, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice (COP24) in December 2018 adopted an enhanced transparency framework (ETF) as part of the Paris Agreement; the ETF applies to all signatory states. The necessary rules and specifications were adopted as part of a comprehensive set of rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The rulebook contains clear guidance on how member states should report on their greenhouse gas emissions and emission mitigation measures and which additional information about the NDCs they should provide. All of these measures should enable the countries to report on national activities by 2024 at the latest – in line with the same worldwide standards. These rules will then be mandatory for the increased ambition of NDCs in 2025. The new transparency system is also intended to enable the transparent monitoring of the agreed NDCs and self-imposed climate change mitigation goals, thus contributing to the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement and its implementation.

In Article 6 of the Agreement, the countries agreed on various cooperative approaches to achieve the necessary mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. These approaches also include market mechanisms such as carbon markets, which provide for the trading of emission reductions between countries. The design of the market mechanisms, such as specific calculation rules for crediting mitigation measures to individual countries’ mitigation targets, was supposed to be determined at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid. However, the member states could not agree on this at the time and the decision was postponed until the following climate conference.

Wind turbines in the desert.
Energy from wind turbines helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Photo: Hugo Muñoz/GIZ
Electric bus
The decarbonisation of the transport sector contributes significantly to the achievement of NDCs. Photo: GIZ China

Germany supports developing and emerging countries through IKI

In order to enable developing and emerging countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, industrialised countries and multilateral institutions help them to achieve their self-defined NDC goals by opening up financing channels, providing technical support and promoting the exchange of knowledge and experience.

The German government supports the corresponding activities of developing and emerging countries through its climate finance. In 2018, Germany made a total of almost €7.1 billion available for international climate finance. Just under half of that amount (more than €3.2 billion) was provided by KfW Development Bank and DEG, a major German development finance institution belonging to the KfW Group. Almost €470 million was provided by the mobilisation of private climate finance. The remainder, approximately €3.4 billion, was provided by German budgetary resources. Germany will continue to make a fair contribution to climate finance. The German funding instruments include International Climate Initiative (IKI). Since it was founded in 2008, IKI has funded more than 730 climate and biodiversity projects in over 60 countries, with a total funding volume of €3.9 billion (2008–2019).

One crucial aspect in the implementation of NDCs is individual stakeholders’ learning processes.

The IKI NDC Support Cluster and the NDC Partnership (NDCP)

One crucial aspect in the implementation of NDCs is individual stakeholders’ learning processes – they learn with and from each other and in groups, supported by a number of international cooperation partners. Founded in 2016 at the World Climate Conference in Marrakech (COP 22), IKI NDC Support Cluster (NDC Cluster) is a “think tank” on the topic of NDCs. It enables close conceptual cooperation and the regular sharing of information on NDC implementation and revision (NDC updating) among IKI project partners and other selected organisations.

The NDC Partnership (NDCP), also launched in 2016 by Germany and Morocco in Marrakech, now has 168 members, comprised of 106 countries, 38 international organisations & development banks and 24 associate members. As a global alliance of governments and multilateral institutions, the NDCP aims to support emerging and developing countries in aligning their climate change mitigation goals with national development goals and to implement them rapidly, sustainably and effectively. The NDCP also seeks to create a foundation for bilateral and multilateral donor programmes, enabling them to focus even more specifically on national support needs and to coordinate efficiently. The Federal German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are increasingly orienting their international climate finance on NDC implementation and the support needs communicated in the NDCP.

Header-Foto: BMU/Sascha Hilgers