After Paris: Developing countries look first to their own resources to deliver agreement 

After Paris: Developing countries look first to their own resources to deliver agreement 

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Date: 27th April 2016
Type: Feature
Tags: COP21, Paris Agreement, UNFCCC

How are developing countries responding to the high ambitions in the Paris climate agreement? CDKN’s Sam Bickersteth and Mairi Dupar report on the diverse perspectives among countries where CDKN is supporting national climate plans and their delivery. Their round-up is based on the full CDKN series 'After Paris - Perspectives from developing countries.'

Developing country governments are grappling with road maps to implement the ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) that they submitted before the Paris climate summit; now that these plans are agreed, people are dropping the 'Intended' and they are called simply 'NDCs'.

Governments see implementing NDCs as part and parcel of delivering their broader national climate and development strategies; and they are actively scoping out what finance, technology and technical support is available to help them deliver their plans- called in UN lingo the ‘means of implementation’.[i]

That’s the clear message from CDKN’s strategic advisors in our focal countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America as the Paris agreement opens for signature in New York.

CDKN’s focal countries (Bangladesh, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda, and Uganda) are - by and large - progressive countries on the climate agenda. We have been working in these countries for more than six years because governments and other stakeholders recognise the opportunities of climate compatible development.

The NDCs in these countries are set in the context of and well embedded in existing national climate strategies and plans – some of which were already quite ambitious – and of poverty reduction plans. As such, they are highly actionable.

Where countries do not have a clear path from the drawing board to the final outcome, they are mapping the necessary inputs (financial, technical, intellectual and skills-based) needed along that journey. They are looking deeply into how their major economic sectors have differential climate risks and carbon footprints, and so require different climate resilience and emissions-avoidance measures.

As RobI Redda, CDKN’s strategic advisor for Ethiopia says, “the current emphasis in Ethiopia is to move from planning processes, which have already well advanced, to implement and deliver the current national climate goals as stipulated in the national development plan, the country’s climate change strategy, and the NDC.”

Marrying climate commitments with the urgent need to tackle poverty

NDC implementation takes place against the broader Sustainable Development Goals in which they are nested and which address countries’ foremost concerns: eradicating poverty, increasing access to jobs, accelerating economic growth, providing modern energy systems and health care for the population.

“The approach of India’s NDC has been anchored in the vision of climate equity,” says Aditi Paul, CDKN’s India Country Programme Manager. “It’s an attempt to work towards a low carbon emission pathway, while simultaneously endeavouring to meet all the developmental challenges that the country faces today. One may say India has in hand its most important tasks, such as poverty eradication and providing water, energy and better health services for all. Having said that, India is very much committed to attaining its (NDC) target. The current focus is on operationalising the NDC and the extent to which domestic policy interventions will be carried out to support implementation, including finance and technology through domestic measures.”

Colombia’s INDC was highly science-based and calibrated against the country’s post-civil war reconstruction plans and aspirations to green growth in an OECD context – these country-specific concerns will guide its implementation, says Claudia Martinez, CDKN’s strategic advisor to Colombia.

Mobilising resources - and refocusing spending priorities

Most developing countries wisely made a delineation between unconditional and conditional climate pledges in their NDCs. Unconditional pledges are adaptation and mitigation actions they can take unilaterally. Conditional pledges are dependent on external finance and other forms of international cooperation.

Climate champions in CDKN’s focal countries (including our strategic advisors) are now eager to mobilise the means of implementation that would catapult countries from their conditional targets to the more ambitious targets they have made conditional on external support.

Related specifically to this, policy-makers in these countries expect that the Paris agreement (a) has unlocked greater political will among donor governments to increase climate finance flows and pressure on intermediary institutions such as the Green Climate Fund to disburse to recipients; and (b) has sent a bold signal to private investors, domestically and internationally, to back low carbon products and services.

All CDKN’s advisors note their governments’ willingness to look at how existing development revenues in-country can be directed more ‘smartly’ to address climate priorities in tandem with development goals, irrespective of the need to mobilise external resources.

In his blog on Nepal’s NDC outlook, Ram Chandra Khanal says: “Due to the low level of adaptive capacity of the developing countries like Nepal, there is an obvious expectation to get support, technology and climate financing to face climate change. But it is equally important to understand the critical role of a country´s government to implement plans so that broader climate targets can be met. So, to me, these two things need to go hand in hand.”

In India, says Aditi Paul, “the larger discussions are surfacing as how to mobilise the private sector money and skills set that can help support easy achievements. There is a large pull on Corporate Social Responsibility funds. Business often spend arbitrarily as CSR money, without aligning to country's goal/ vision. This now pulled together for adaptation measure. Further, India's renewable energy promises is another route for private sector to benefit from India's pledge for combating climate change.”

Reaching into sectors

“India is committed to implementing its NDC targets not only as per the schedule agreed but also in its spirit by mainstreaming integration of the NDC in its urban, agriculture, forestry, energy, and other sectoral programmes,” says Mihir Bhatt, CDKN’s strategic advisor for India. “At various levels in the government—from national to sub-national—the search is on to not only implement what is promised but also find new and different ways to promote climate compatible economic growth – may it be for cities or ports or infrastructure. Green skills and green start-ups are being looked at as a way to accelerate economic growth. Balancing reduction in emission and poverty, both, for a country of India’s population is not seen as a challenge but as an opportunity”.

The outlook from Kenya, whose Parliament is deliberating a national climate law, is focused similarly on how to integrate climate action into each sector. Margaret Kamau CDKN’s strategic advisor for Kenya says: “The Government of Kenya is currently working closely with sectoral ministries to examine what the Paris agreement and Kenya’s NDC mean for each sector and for the overall economy. This process aims to unpack the strategic key steps to be taken at the sectoral level and prioritise implementation actions within the different sectors.”

Locking commitments into the domestic political process

In the aftermath of the Paris summit, national climate negotiators are all too aware that ‘ownership’ (moral support) together with material support and active cooperation across society will be needed to implement the NDCs.

For some countries, enough time has lapsed since the Paris Agreement was signed that there are questions about maintaining political commitment at national government level. For instance, Peru is in the middle of a Presidential election. CDKN strategic advisor Miriam Cerdan says: “The Paris Agreement will be signed by the current President in New York on 22 April although the next Congress will be in charge of the ratification of the agreement. In this context, the current actions from the Ministry of Environment consist of transferring all the information and commitments made by governmental and non-governmental actors, trying to ensure the continuity of all the previous work done". This transition could be significant, considering the leading role played by the current Peruvian Government as the COP21 President and joint stewards of the Lima to Paris Climate Action Agenda.

How to measure successful implementation?

The Paris climate agreement recognised the collective contributions that countries made via their NDCs – and called for even greater ambition. The contributions added up to greenhouse gas emissions cuts that would still put the world on a pathway to 3 degrees of warming – which scientists warn could completely disrupt the natural systems on which we all depend. In headline terms, the Paris Agreement urged countries, rather, “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels.”

By adopting such an ambitious goal, countries recognised the imperative of cutting greenhouse gas emissions immediately and dramatically. The worldwide need to deal with the inevitable impacts of climate change through adaptation action was also deeply embedded in the agreement.[ii]

The bridge between the 1.5 degree goal and the 3 degree plans will be made like this: countries will meet and review how to increase the ambition of their collective actions every few years. The agreement lays out a roadmap starting with the dialogue in 2018.

So how should we judge countries’ progress after the Paris summit? By the degree to which they are implementing the climate plans they submitted to the UNFCCC before Paris last year?

Or should we be judging countries by the degree to which they are not only ploughing ahead with NDC delivery at current levels of ambition, but also opening conversations about creating the next level of national ambition – to drive a global effort that brings the world closer to the 1.5 degrees?

Beyond the current NDCs: ambition toward a 1.5 degree world

The vast majority of countries where CDKN works, and whose perspectives contribute to this rich fabric of post-Paris perspectives are low-emitting countries, either on a per capita or on an absolute (global) basis. Therefore, in reality, the opportunity for cutting larger amounts of emissions rests with the larger emitting countries.

Stakeholders in CDKN’s focal countries will view the question of increasing climate ambition to 2018, 2020 and beyond as more or less relevant to national circumstances.  So – is the conversation about increased ambition even open?

Mochamad Indrawan, CDKN’s advisor in Indonesia, the world’s third largest emitting country, says: “All eyes in Indonesian policy circles are on the job of delivering the current national climate goals. Further, meeting the [emissions] gap is not off the table for Indonesia.  The most feasible would be to facilitate an enhanced role for non-state actors.  For the first time in Indonesia comes this strategic need to enter an open dialogue, with the government especially from KLHK - Ministry of Environment and Forestry standing ready to listen.”

“The pioneering outreach is spearheaded by Institute of Essential Service Reform, a well-respected Indonesian think tank, and CDKN. In the words of Fabby Tumiwa, Director of IESR: ‘The role of non-state actors are seen important to fill the gap of mitigation ambition pre and post-2020. The Emissions Gap Report by UNEP (2015) concludes that committed action by existing non-state actor initiative could deliver emission savings of 2,9 Gt by 2020. It is roughly half of climate mitigation pledge by government’.”

As reflected in the integration of climate within the SDGs themselves, there are many opportunities to integrate or mainstream climate action –both building resilience and moving towards low carbon growth – into national goals. Access to greater finance, better capability and new technology will go a long way to delivering the NDCs and further increasing ambition.

Read the full series of After Paris Perspectives from developing countries


[i] In the run-up to the Paris climate summit, countries were invited to submit their plans for curbing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions on an economy-wide basis. For the first time in the UNFCCC’s history, this process aimed to include all developing and developed countries in pledging climate action.

Even the least developed countries and small island developing states were invited to step forward. Together, these countries are home to some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable people and they release a miniscule proportion of global emissions.

As a nod to countries’ diversity, the Lima Call to Action (the previous year’s United Nations climate declaration) said countries could “communicate information on strategies, plans and actions for low greenhouse gas emission development reflecting their special circumstances”.

[ii] Why countries rose above their difference to adopt this ambitious, overarching goal is thanks in part to their recognising the moral case for strong action: the injustice of poor countries’ suffering the effects of rich countries’ fossil fuel profligacy. A CDKN-Independent Diplomat event in New York City on 22 April will explore and celebrate the importance of these vulnerable countries’ voices in the process. A vast array of non-state actors, ranging from mayors and local officials to civil society groups and progressive businesses were also at the forefront of demanding high ambition.


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