Tracking intended nationally determined contributions: what are the implications for greenhouse gas emissions in 2030?

Headline issue

Countries agreed at the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru, in December 2014 to set out their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) during the first quarter of 2015, ahead of COP21 in Paris, France, in December 2015.

As of 20 July 2015, 46 countries, including the 28 Member States of the European Union, have submitted INDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This policy paper considers whether the INDCs submitted so far are consistent with the 2°C limit. It finds that, whilst the INDCs represent progress compared with a ‘business as usual’ global emissions pathway, there is a gap between current ambitions and the actions that need to be taken to limit a rise in global average temperature to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial level.

Key findings

The INDCs submitted as of 20 July 2015 would lead to annual global emissions in 2030 of 56.9 to 59.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. This is much higher than the 36 billion tonnes that the United Nations Environment Programme has indicated would be consistent with having a 50 to 66 per cent chance of avoiding a rise in global average temperature of more than 2°C above its pre-industrial level.

The INDCs also fall well short of the global  emissions target of 42 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, in the scenario that technologies – such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – can create significant ‘negative emissions’.

The authors also reiterate the findings of a previous paper that countries should focus on four key ways to increase the ambitions of emissions cuts both before and after the Paris summit:

  1. Hard work is needed over the next few months by all countries to find credible ways of achieving bigger emissions reductions which can be included in pledges to be submitted before the Paris summit, or achieved through additional efforts by partnerships, for example, through specific decarbonisation initiatives among willing countries.
  2. An intensification of efforts to increase investment and innovation – particularly in relation to the development of cities, energy systems and land use – could help to close the gap between countries intentions and the emissions reduction goal before and after 2030.
  3. A mechanism should be included in the agreement emerging from the Paris summit in December so that countries can review their efforts and find ways of ramping up the ambition of their emissions reductions by 2030 and beyond.
  4. Concerted efforts are needed by all countries to build the strong and transparent domestic base necessary for the implementation of their pledges. This should set them on a path to decarbonisation and enable them to ramp up their ambitions.