Implementing nationally determined contributions

Last updated: April 2023

The world’s nations have declared their commitment to mitigation measures known as ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs) by signing the Paris Agreement (Paris Agreement Article 4) in 2015. By having countries take individual responsibility in this way, the NDCs aim to generate greater acceptance for climate change mitigation measures.

Since then, all signatory countries have set out their national climate targets, although major challenges still exist. On the one hand, it is difficult to compare the climate change mitigation targets set out in the various NDCs. On the other, scientific analyses, such as the latest Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023 issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), continue to send a clear message that, taken together, the nations’ climate change mitigation measures and targets are not yet ambitious enough to limit global warming to a level significantly below 2 °C (and ideally 1.5 °C).

Increasing ambition

To address the above problems, the nations attending the Paris Climate Change Conference agreed to review their NDCs regularly, so as to identify options for improvement and optimisation (increased ambition), to submit information, and to update or restate their pledges by no later than to 2020. The current state of play can be viewed in the NDC Registry kept by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

A mitigation gap still exists, however, in the NDCs submitted to date. To ensure that the global community continues to redouble its climate change mitigation efforts in the years to come, the Paris Agreement therefore envisages regular ambition-raising activities. Since 2020, signatory states must submit updated NDCs every five years (the first were submitted in 2021 due to the postponement of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow). Two years before each scheduled update, a comprehensive review (‘global stocktake’) is made of global progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. This global stocktake, the first of which will be completed in 2023, is intended to help the parties identify whether they are generally on the right path regarding climate change mitigation, adaptation to climate change and the financing of climate mitigation measures. In this way, the results of this stocktake provide orientation for updating the NDCs.

Transparency: progress checks with climate reporting

Detailed information about the implementation and achievement of national targets provided in regular reports by signatory countries offers a snapshot of the global progress made towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, and helps to facilitate a global evaluation of the national and international progress made.

By no later than 2024, all countries who have ratified the Paris Agreement will be required to adopt a single and universal transparency process as set out by the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF). The information collected in the context of the ETF will provide a clear understanding of the measures and support in relation to climate change while also contributing to the global stocktake. The ETF conforms to all of the Paris Agreement provisions, which include tracking progress made in the implementation of the NDCs and identifying the achievement of climate change mitigation targets. 

The rules for the operationalisation of the ETF, which are referred to as ‘modalities, procedures and guidelines’ (MPGs), were codified by the signatory states in a ‘Rule Book’ at COP24, which was held in Katowice in 2018. The remaining details, which aim to help the countries to implement the ETF in full (including the development of common reporting tables and formats for reporting, the report format and the training programme for contributing experts) were finalised at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.

IKI approaches to NDC implementation

Advanced economies and multilateral institutions are helping developing and emerging countries to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt better to the impacts of climate change, with the aim of achieving their respective nationally determined contributions. To this end, they are providing financial and technical support while sharing knowledge and insights.

Germany is taking a leading role here. One of the German funding instruments is the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The IKI’s projects respond to partner enquiries by providing policy advice, technical expertise for calculating emissions and support for the overall NDC process, from the creation and updating of the NDCs to their actual implementation. These activities may include the development of scenarios, country-specific requirements analyses, cost estimates, or the formulation of specific mitigation or reduction targets in various sectors. Projects from the IKI also work to develop guidelines on individual aspects of NDC implementation, organise seminars and workshops, and provide advice to interministerial working groups on the identification and involvement of key actors in climate change mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

The Paris Agreement also requires signatory countries to formulate and communicate long-term strategies for development that achieve low greenhouse gas emissions (LT-LEDs or LTS). These LTS aim to secure the achievement of the long-term UNFCCC climate targets and ensure that contemporary activities are organised in accordance with these future goals. In light of this, the IKI supports the (further) development and implementation of LTS and the harmonisation of NDCs with LTS.

In addition, the IKI promotes international networking, dialogue and knowledge sharing within and between ministries and between governments. Although typically working at a bilateral level, the IKI often joins multi-state projects with a largely global or regional focus.


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