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Turning the key to action against climate change

Turning the key to action against climate change
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One single key will unlock the transition to a climate resilient world. It led 195 countries to sign the Paris Agreement; it helped transform the accord into national laws in 169 countries; and brought the agreement into force last November 2016, only one year after it was signed and much sooner than anyone expected. 

Climate change led nations to 25 years of negotiations in search of a response to one of the most threatening challenges of our time. The solution they devised however, like with any key, seems to offer a simple solution to a complex problem, especially once fitted into its three-letter acronym: NDC.

NDCs or Nationally Determined Contributions allow each country to outline its own plan to stop global warming and prepare for the impacts of climate change within the framework of the Paris Agreement, with consideration for national circumstances. 

This way forward responds to a diverse, dynamic and complex global scenario – in recognition that one global and top-down approach would not work in the context of so many different national realities. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the previous climate agreement signed by 84 nations in 1997, the Paris Agreement has all but two of the world’s countries on board. Now, the key must be turned on the local level – the most important door in the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient future. That is why the NDC Partnership was born. 

To put the Paris Agreement into practice and support countries in the implementation of their NDCs, a global alliance formed known as the NDC Partnership. It currently includes 64 countries spanning five regions of the world and 13 international institutions that include United Nations agencies and multinational development banks.  

Bringing together developing and developed countries, international organizations and non-state actors, the Partnership engages in three primary areas: technical assistance and capacity building in-country, knowledge sharing and enhancing financial support. It works as a connector, matchmaking national needs and international partners who can assist, drawing from its vast network of climate and development policymakers and experts around the world. 

Like the NDCs themselves, the work the NDC Partnership does is country-driven. The Partnership does not tell anyone what to do, but works towards solutions from the needs countries identify. Once requested by a member country, partners come together to support the production of a Partnership Plan under the leadership of the government, to support NDC implementation in ways that ensure a structured and coherent approach, aligning development and climate actions, enhancing NDC integration into national planning and promoting long-term climate action. 

After one year of work, the NDC Partnership is beginning to see, and support, the emergence of successful and scalable approaches that strategically broaden NDC implementation from beyond the environmental agenda to every aspect of national development. In Costa Rica, Colombia and Mali, for example, partners have taken specific steps to improve in-country coordination among ministries and across sectors to ensure climate action is well represented in national development planning. Uganda and Mali are working with other NDC Partnership members to determine how to use national budgets to drive NDC implementation and identify and address gaps in funding and other support.

Country progress in addressing climate change is being confirmed by global data trends. Data from Climate Watch supports findings that global emissions have begun to stabilize in the past three years. Carbon dioxide emissions fell in the United States and China, the world’s two largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe. 

Although the broad outlines of action on climate change have been defined, countries must still urgently accelerate their efforts and increase ambitions. Even if every country meets its current NDC targets, estimates show that global warming is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius. To have a fighting chance of stopping global warming, greenhouse gas emissions must – therefore – sharply decline. Countries around the world on the front lines of climate change, dealing with unprecedented weather emergencies, see firsthand that we are confronting unprecedented vulnerabilities. 

From what the NDC Partnership has seen from countries so far, the conditions exist to do more and to aim farther. Next year, countries will participate in a Facilitative Dialogue to take stock of collective efforts under the Paris Agreement. Fiji, Argentina and Morocco, among others, have already signaled their intent to strengthen their mitigation targets and actions, and we expect many more countries to follow.

As the Aristotle quote famously goes, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We all rely on one another to push forward on the urgent need to tackle climate change. This can be addressed through diversity and collaboration – embedded principles of the NDCs. From local approaches to global and back again, it will be the successful implementation of NDCs that will be the key to a carbon neutral and climate resilient world.

Pablo Vieira is Global Director of the NDC Partnership Support Unit, which is responsible for leading efforts to assist countries in advancing their climate goals by facilitating access to analysis, tools, expertise, financing and other resources. The NDC Partnership is global coalition of 64 countries and thirteen international institutions working together to mobilize support and achieve ambitious climate goals under the Paris Agreement while enhancing sustainable development.