Beyond emissions targets: How to strengthen the ambition of NDCs?

[Press release - 22.09.2017]

Results of the MILES project informing the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue

Brussels, September 22 – In order to reach the collective Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature rises to “well below 2°C”, countries need to submit more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This requires focusing not only on countries’ aggregate emission levels, but also on the sectoral transformations needed to drive decarbonisation. Today, the MILES project, coordinated by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), publishes its results about the key levers to foster these sectoral transformations in the European Union and in 7 key countries (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and the United States). The results will be also presented to the European Commission in Brussels today.

1. As widely recognised, the next revised NDCs must be more ambitious to reach the Paris climate goal. However, beyond simply revisiting their emission targets, countries should identify the sectoral transformations necessary for deeper cuts in emissions.

The MILES project confirms that, to reach the Paris long term goals, countries must consider deeper emission reductions than those implied in their current NDCs. They must also start the enhanced mitigation efforts already in 2020 to align the short-term strategies with requirements for long-term transformations.

A necessary condition to ensure the alignment of the updated NDCs with the longer-term transformation required by 2050 is to analyse and communicate sectoral transformation at a granular level - as opposed to accounting only for emissions reductions.

For example in the US, reaching an ambitious 80% reduction of economy-wide emissions in 2050 compared to 2005 levels corresponds to a linear decrease from 2020 through the 26-28% decrease by 2025 in the NDC. But, the US study in MILES shows that following this emission trend would require non-linear transformations, involving for example a tripling of annual low-carbon energy capacity additions after 2025. 

“ ’Opening the box’ of sectoral transformations is key for the progressive revision of NDCs and their implementation: it helps identifying concrete short-term policies and measures triggering the required long-term transformations”, says Michel Colombier, IDDRI scientific director.

2. The MILES project identifies key levers to foster these sectoral transformations.

(for more details, please see the Policy Brief):

> A smooth transition towards 2C requires an acceleration of investment shifts in the energy sector before 2030. For example, the Mexican study shows that, to deliver on its 2050 national mitigation targets, which are consistent with the 2°C global objective, the country should avoid the 2018-2022 gas build-up consistent with its current NDC, and rather pursue a steady increase in renewable energy supply before 2020.

> The diffusion of key emerging low-carbon technologies should be accelerated, which notably requires a scale-up of international collaboration on innovation. Current NDCs assume little penetration until 2030 of some emerging low-carbon technologies, while the analysis shows that these solutions would play an important role in low-carbon trajectories after that date. The analysis on China shows an important role for CCS after 2030 despite marginal deployment before that date in its NDC; this points to the need for coordinated early efforts supporting realistic conditions for these deployments through accelerated research, development and diffusion. The European Union study shows a similar conclusion for electric vehicles, which points to the need for adequate policies and infrastructure deployment favoring the accelerated diffusion of these vehicles over the next 15 years and preparing its scale-up after that date.

> Electrification of energy end-uses is not sufficiently considered in current NDCs

This is particularly true in countries such as Japan, where energy efficiency is already very high and decarbonisation of energy is quite advanced, so that electrification therefore represents a key opportunity to reach additional emission reductions.

> Mitigation strategies targeting also non-energy sectors are more cost effective and flexible. The analysis on China shows that the mitigation of only energy-related emissions provides limited associated reductions of other gases than CO2, for instance methane, so that policies specifically targeting non-energy emissions are needed. The analysis shows that, even when such measures are included for agriculture and land-use in Brazil NDC, the concrete mitigation potential are not quantified despite their key role in overall national mitigation.

3.  Considering the detailed transformations of key emitting sectors is crucial to align climate goals with other sustainable development targets, such as food production, energy security, job creation, reducing inequality, local pollution and water preservation. 

“The sectoral approach of NDCs reinforces the credibility of country commitments by making explicit the link between emissions targets and national sustainable development objectives. Reconciling these different objectives is essential to maximise social and political support to the transformation”, explained Teresa Ribera, director of IDDRI.

These lessons learnt from the project can help inform the discussions on the stocktake of collective action at the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue and foster the increase of ambition by 2020. “The MILES consortium provides a key contribution to the process launched by the Paris Climate Agreement. It maximises the collective value of NDCs by identifying where international cooperation would be crucial to boost the national low-carbon transformation”, explained Michel Colombier. “This is essential for sending the right signals to non-state actors, notably investors, and enabling the convergence of their own strategies with the collective climate goals,” he added.

MILES is a 3-year project (2014-2017), coordinated by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and financed by the European Commission, which brings together research partners from US, Japan, Europe, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia in order to develop low-emission development strategies at national and global levels.

The partner institutions are:

  • COPPE, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
  • Tsinghua University (China)
  • Renmin University and National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (China)
  • Energy Research Institute of NRDC (China)
  • The Energy and Resources Institute (India)
  • Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (India)
  • Bogor Agricultural University (Indonesia)
  • National Institute for Environmental Studies (Japan)
  • Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (Japan)
  • Tempus Analítica (Mexico)
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (USA)
  • Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung (global studies)
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (global studies)
  • Energy - Economy - Environment Modelling Laboratory (global studies)
  • Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (global studies)
  • The Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (global studies)
  • The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (global studies)

>> Read the Policy Brief, Beyond emission targets: how to strengthen the ambition of NDCs?

>> Read the factsheets “Inside NDCs: national strategies in the light of the Paris Agreement”