What’s an INDC anyway?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the negotiating process can be difficult to wrap your head around, especially if you are a new-comer to international negotiations like I am.  To make things even more confusing there are acronyms for anything and everything! The UNFCCC, the ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action), the COP (Conference of the Parties), the acronyms for negotiating blocs and non nation state actors (NNSA), just to name a few.

One important acronym that you might hear thrown around is INDC.  INDC stands for Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, and is a countries’ post 2020 commitment for climate action and GHG reductions.  INDCs were first discussed at COP19 in Warsaw, and both developed and developing countries have been invited to produce and submit them;  this is a first for the UNFCCC as it normally abides by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) for developed and developing nations.

The first country to submit its INDC was Switzerland in February of 2015, and the submissions have been trickling in ever since.  This past week saw a huge jump in submissions, as the secretariat will be preparing a synthesis report of INDCs that were communicated by October 1, 2015; 73 new and revised submissions were seen this week alone on the INDC Portal!  The synthesis report will hopefully show parties the overall state of global emission reduction commitments before negotiations start in Paris this December.

In general, an INDC submission includes a reference point to compare emissions against, the time frame for implementation, the scope and coverage of the target, the method of calculating emissions, as well as why the party considers its INDC fair and ambitious, and how it contributes to achieving the objective of the convention.  INDCs can also include information about adaptation, finance, technology, etc.  but this information is not necessary and not all countries have included them in their submissions.  To date 148 parties have submitted their INDCs (121 submissions total),  accounting for approximately 85% of global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

If you are impatient and want to see a break down of INDC submissions before the synthesis report is complete, WRI’s CAIT Climate Data Explorer is a great resource.  Through the interactive map you can see who’s submitted and who hasn’t, as well as other information including what gases are covered in submissions and what baseline year each country is using for their calculations.  The CAIT tool also has a separate dashboard for pre 2o20 pledges (of which there are only 73 pledges currently).

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In the coming weeks it will be interesting to see all the different analyses of the contributions that are sure to be published before we see the official synthesis from the UNFCCC.  Along with the negotiating text that is being worked on at the next intercessional meeting in Bonn, the INDCs and synthesis report will be the basis for the upcoming negotiations in December.



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