Impacts of COVID-19 on raising ambition of national climate pledges under the Paris agreement, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)​

Author: UNDP

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business as usual around the world, presenting governments and communities with new and intensified health, economic, and governance challenges. At the same time, the climate crisis has continued unabated. Governments have been developing national pledges – known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs – under the Paris Agreement. These pledges, now in the context of COVID-19, take on new meaning as they can be a blueprint for a green recovery and ambitious climate action

UNDP’s Climate Promise[1], the world’s largest global initiative to support countries to enhance their NDCs, is helping policymakers to adapt to this new reality. According to data received from 115 countries currently supported by the initiative, a majority of countries still intend to increase climate ambition despite the impacts of COVID-19. 70% of countries now indicate to increase migitation ambition compared to just over 50% at the on-set of COVID-19 crisis. Adaptation ambition also increases from 92% to 97%. This is an encouraging trend. However, countries continue to grapple with the timing of their NDC submissions.As the COVID-19 crisis continues, more countries are further delaying their submission into 2021. However, the delay does not mean that countries are slowing down. Some are taking time to adjust, leveraging the Climate Promise and NDC processes to help design and roll out green recovery efforts. The below dashboard shows the current status of countries’ ambition intentions as well as their submission timelines (Last updated: November 2020).

Higher Emitters comprise of top 30 countries with share of GHG emissions higher than 0.5% of the global total. Data generated from UNDP’s analysis based on countries’ planned NDC enhancement activities and engagement in the Climate Promise. Country names are not specified as submission details are not publicly available.


Temporary impacts on GHG emissions

The world has seen a reduction on global CO2 emission for the first time since the last global financial crisis in 2008, due to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Nature study published in May 2020 predicts that the 2020 annual reduction may be between 4% to 7% depending on level and duration of the COVID-19-related restrictions and policies imposed by countries around the world. However, it stresses that this reduction is temporary, as we saw during the 2008 economic crisis. the implications on the medium to long-term CO2 reduction pathway will be determined based on how post-pandemic recovery policies and plans are implemented

However, a recent study reveals that the direct effect of emission and pollutant reductions resulting from the global COVID-19 response will be negligible if following current national policies. Nonetheless, the study projects that if an economic recovery moves away from fossil fuel investments and supports green stimulus, there would be a positive contribution to limiting the global temperature warming – in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Opportunities to tackle dual crises: Climate Ambition must remain a priority amidst the COVID-19 crisis

Countries are starting to recognize the opportunity of leveraging NDC processes as a gateway and guide to a greener and more sustainable COVID-19 response and recovery. NDCs, aligned with plans such as Long-Term Strategies (LTS) and National Adaptation Plans (NAP), have already outlined ways to spur economic growth and job creation by transitioning to green and resilient pathways. Countries can draw upon this wealth of information, analyses and targets to chart the path ahead.

Through UNDP’s support under the Climate Promise, we are seeing an increasing number of countries promote closer linkages between economic recovery and climate ambition. Around 50 countries reported on concrete ways that they are linking the Climate Promise support to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Countries are aligning and integrating NDC measures and strategies with the COVID-19 recovery plans. For instance, Nigeria has incorporated NDC-related recommendations into the draft COVID-19 plan, and Costa Rica is integrating COVID-19 economic models into the National Decarbonization Plan. Many are generating data and evidence on the linkages between NDCs and green recovery, such as undertaking analyses of the impact of COVID-19 on NDC implementation (Ghana, Indonesia) and how NDC measures impact COVID-19 recovery (Malaysia, Philippines, Tunisia). In Turkey, the Climate Promise activities are directly linked with the Socio-economic Impact Assessments (SEIA) undertaken by the UN Country Team. In Thailand the Government is undertaking an economic analysis of climate action to elaborate fiscal incentive options for climate action that could also advance economic recovery (e.g. carbon fund, carbon tax). This effort to understand both the impact by as well as the impact on COVID-19 signals a long-term approach to the relationship between climate change and COVID-19. Some countries are increasingly using NDCs to make the socio-economic case for ambitious climate action – including focusing on jobs. For example, in Zimbabwe and Nigeria, UNDP is collaborating with ILO on green jobs assessments that measure the impact of priority climate measures on GDP, employment, skills, income distribution and inequality and gender inequality, and helping lay the groundwork for a just transition.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, and countries are weighing the many considerations of recovery, it becomes even more critical to leverage the Climate Promise and NDC processes. In line with the UN COVID-response and recovery framework and the UNDP’s COVID-19 2.0’s Green Economy pillar, UNDP has launched a guidance note, “Building the Economy of Tomorrow: Using NDCs to Inform Green Recovery,” with five entry points for how best to leverage NDCs for green recovery: 1) Align and Integrate NDC Measures and Strategies with COVID-19 Recovery Plans, 2) Align Climate and NDC Finance with Recovery Finance, 3) Strengthen Capacities and Coordination between Ministries of Finance and Environment, 4) Enhance Gender-responsive and Inclusive Processes across NDCs and Recovery, and 5) Building National Capacity and Facilitating South-South Collaboration.

[1] In September 2019, UNDP launched the Climate Promise with the aim to support over 100 countries to enhance their NDCs by 2020. Currently 115 countries are receiving support under the Climate Promise, the largest global offer in helping countries advance its climate ambition.

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