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More than 100 UN member states have made official pledges ahead of the global climate talks starting in Paris, France, at the end of the month. The pledges, officially known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), set out what countries intend to do about climate change over the next decade and beyond, with action plans for mitigation and adaptation at a national level. Below are a pair of interactive maps on two key aspects of these pledges: what they promise and how they will be funded.
This year, with 149 submissions so far, representing 176 states, more countries than ever are taking part in the UN negotiation process. Together, the nations that have submitted INDCs produce 95.4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of the pledges is to reduce emissions to a level compatible with remaining within a threshold of two degrees Celsius warming compared with pre-industrial levels.
Observers are optimistic about the quality and quantity of the submitted pledges, as commitments are more detailed than in previous years, and outline concrete measures.
The process of transition to a low-carbon economy will require actions such as improved natural resource management, technology transfer and large-scale use of renewable energy. But all this will come at a cost that many developing countries cannot afford. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has tried to work around this by allowing countries to put forward ‘conditional’ pledges, whose delivery will depend on the availability of international climate aid.
Map 1 outlines the landscape of conditional pledges, compared with unconditional commitments, where countries can meet their climate target without external support.
The data were last updated on 19 November.
Map 1: Do pledges require international climate aid?
The map shows how most conditional pledges have been made by nations in the developing world, which is home to many of the most highly vulnerable regions. Establishing a clear international finance scheme will be crucial to enable both the transition to a climate-friendly global economic system and better climate adaptation.
“Channelling the right kind of funds to the right projects is an ongoing challenge,” says Taryn Fransen, who leads the Open Climate Network, a coalition that tracks climate policy.
“Good information about investment options and how to spend the money where it’s most needed is crucial to make the global community better at implementing these plans.”
Countries’ commitments vary not only in terms of finance capacity, but also in how they measure their ambitions. This makes it harder to compare achievements and identify practices in need of improvement.
One approach to mitigation, adopted by most developing countries, involves looking at the projected emission growth under a business-as-usual scenario, and using a point in the future as a baseline against which to assess reductions in emissions.
Developed countries have generally pledged a so-called absolute reduction, pinpointing a historical baseline, instead of modelling the future. For example, the United States intends to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 levels by 2025.
Other countries, such as China, promise to reach peak emissions some time in the future, and progressively phase out fossil fuels afterwards.
Making sense of such diverse proposals is tricky, says Fransen. “If we want to understand the impact of these pledges on global emissions, we need to be able to aggregate them,” she says. Normally, the various national actions are translated into an estimate of the overall impact on each country’s emissions by 2025 or 2030. Then these figures can be added together to provide a global estimate.
This is an easy enough task when pledges involve greenhouse gas reduction, but with some adaptation measures “we have to make assumptions because they don’t come in a form that makes it easy to do that”, Fransen says.
“Comparability is also important because the UNFCCC specifies that pledges should be fair and ambitious,” she adds. “To estimate if countries are really doing their fair share to address the problem, there has to be comparability between their contributions.”
Explore Map 2 to learn more about the different types of INDC pledge. Click on each country for a detailed overview of its proposal.
Map 2: What types of pledges have been made?