Tackling Climate Change at COP26 Summit: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions

27 Oct 2021

Across the world, countries have been battling the impact of climate change. At the Earth Summit or the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was agreed and its leadership body, Conference of Parties (COP) has been meeting every year since 1995.

An important new international climate agreement came about at the UNFCCC COP21, held in Paris in December 2015, otherwise known as the Paris Agreement of 2015. This event saw the participation of over 196 countries plus the European Union, and all parties to the UNFCCC, who together agreed upon a set of principles on curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promptly tackling the detrimental impact of climate change.

The countries undertook a historic new international agreement towards climate change mitigation, a step towards keeping the global temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius. As per this, countries outlined commitments known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) aimed at steering the world towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient, sustainable future. The NDCs or intended NDCs are national plans highlighting climate actions of that respective country, including climate-related targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, and policies and measures undertaken by governments to ensure the same.

The aim of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is to curtail GHG emissions, thereby ensuring that global temperatures do not rise beyond 2degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and ultimately move towards a future where temperature rise remains below 1.5 degree Celsius. Each country, having its unique resources and capabilities, has defined the agreement according to its own needs and preferences. This highlights their individual obligations under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

As part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the countries are required to update their NDCs every 5 years, and hence were to submit the updated versions in 2020. Some countries aimed at an NDC implementation period until 2030, while for others it was up to 2025. Till last year, 106 countries had shown intent to enhance their NDCs but only seven had submitted their NDC policies.

The COVID-19 pandemic curbed the NDC preparation process for many countries, leading to challenges in meeting the timelines. Although the pandemic has diverted the attention of governments around the world, countries need to submit their revised NDCs ahead of COP26 summit to participate in Glasgow in November 2021.

Norway, in February 2020, declared an outstanding target of a 50% reduction in emissions, and further reduction of 55% of the 1990 levels by 2030. It is the first developed country to announce an enhanced NDC, concretising the way for others. What will be interesting to note is how other nations follow suit in climate action strategies that the climate crisis requires.

India’s INDC

India has submitted its INDC to the UNFCCC. India’s INDCs focus mainly on climate change variations. Of the 8 missions outlined in India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, 4 are focused on practising sustainable agriculture, increasing water use efficiency, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem and creating sustainable habitats.

The country plans to reduce its emissions by 33 – 35% between 2005 and 2030.  India’s actions towards climate change mitigation have a strong development impact and it is also focusing on accelerating the use of clean and renewable energy by 40% of total electricity by 2030, promoting efficient use of energy and increasing carbon sinks by creating an additional capacity of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 through significant afforestation efforts.

In order to achieve these set targets, another key element of India’s NDC include building capacities, creation of domestic framework and development of collaborative R&D for future technologies.

India has taken commendable initiatives in promotion of clean energy, efficiency in power supply, climate resilient urban development, promoting waste to wealth, green transportation, afforestation and abatement of pollution. It is also undertaking adaptation strategies in areas such as agriculture, water, healthcare and disaster management. Protecting biodiversity and the unique Himalayan ecosystem is also part of its strategy.

The INDCs are extremely crucial to the success of the world’s climate agenda. Setting climate goals through such plans gives out strong intent to investors and businesses, both domestic and international, ensuring that the evolution and development of economies across the globe is moving in the correct direction, i.e., towards a cleaner, circular and sustainable planet.

The NDCs can be the linchpin for a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, propelling economic growth, accelerating transformation through technology, generating employment opportunities and addressing social inequalities.

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