13.05.2015

Interview with Dr. Niklas Höhne from NewClimate Institute

An international workshop on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) took place in April in Berlin. The aim was to give participating countries the opportunity to exchange experiences on preparing and developing their INDCs and discuss the associated technical and political processes. The Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference should submit their INDCs to the UNFCCC secretariat by fall 2015 at the latest. Germany is standing by its partner countries in this process through the BMUB, which is providing support to around 25 countries through IKI projects.
Dr Niklas Höhne, Head of the NewClimate Institute and associate professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, spoke as one of the experts at the workshop. He is the lead author of the chapter 'Climate policies and international cooperation' for the fourth and fifth Assessment Reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Can you describe to us the ways in which the INDCs differ from other international climate instruments in your view? What makes INDCs so innovative?

Höhne: What is new is that every single country is called upon to think about what contribution it can make under this climate change convention. In the past industrialised countries took on the largest responsibility for climate change. They had to lead the way and think about their contributions. Now all countries must contribute and the question is: Which country does how much and at what expense? One view is that there are countries that should do more than others. Another is that it is not important as to who does how much. Climate change is a huge problem for all of us and every country should make a clear and ambitious contribution.

The NewClimate Institute recently released a statement indicating that 81% of countries view the development of INDCs as a challenge. What types of challenges and what hurdles must be overcome?

Höhne: There are countries that have already carried out technical analyses and know which national measures can be taken and what kind of emission reductions are to be expected. These countries are already at a very good starting point and will be able to develop their INDCs comparatively easily. It is difficult for countries that do not have this information available to plan out their contributions. In addition, it takes a lot of time to coordinate and come to agreements at the level of the government, ministries, certain parts of civil society, and representatives of important stakeholder groups such as industry. Many countries do not have enough time when it comes to INDCs. Therefore this process must be well organised and works better in countries that have more experience with such processes, while it is really a challenge for other countries.

Those representing the interests of some states do not view climate change mitigation as a priority. In your opinion, how can the preparation of INDCs be made more attractive?

Höhne: Most countries do in fact have other priorities. There are good arguments that climate change mitigation is not only good for the climate, but also good for the economic development of a country. It can create additional jobs or reduce the demand for imports of fossil fuels. However, climate change mitigation can also have positive impacts on health if there are reductions in fine dust pollution.

What role will the INDCs play in the upcoming negotiations in Paris?

Höhne: The INDCs form the basis of the negotiations. The key point is that countries implement national measures that contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. However, I also would like to express that a positive outcome can only been achieved if substantial INDCs are submitted.

What did you expect from the workshop and were your expectations fulfilled?

Höhne: At earlier workshops many countries were still unclear as to what is to be done with regard to INDCs or how they could prepare their INDCs. One could see at this workshop that the countries have made a lot of progress. The country representatives have clear ideas as to what works and what doesn't, and they have clear questions. That sounds good to me.

How important is this kind of informal dialogue at international level for the development of individual INDCs?

Höhne: Informal dialogues at international level are absolutely essential. Formal negotiations are very impersonal, but are nevertheless driven by personalities. For this reason, informal meetings are important in order to get both points of view across.


Further information