4. Are the current pledges by countries adequate to tackle climate change?

As part of the Paris Agreement, 162 pledges were submitted to the Climate Change Convention describing how each country intends to tackle climate change. These pledges cover 189 countries accounting for about 98 percent of global GHG emissions[1].


Most of the INDCs include pledges on how countries plan to reduce GHG emissions and to adapt to climate change. Because for the first time most developing countries made these types of pledges, 83 percent of them are in part or entirely conditional to the provision of finance, technology and capacity-building, for their full implementation. 


Various research groups analyzed the collective impact of the INDCs[2]. These studies used different methodologies and criteria for their assessment[3]. Some studies, for example, include all unconditional and conditional INDCs, while others only include unconditional ones. Different assumptions were also used to harmonize the information included in the pledges submitted by countries, as well as to make projections for the rest of the century, beyond the 2030 timeframe of the INDCs. Thus, the conclusions from these studies on the collective impact of the INDCs vary.


All the studies agreed that the INDCs show a real increase in the commitment by countries to combat climate change. Collectively, pledges by countries to be undertaken between 2020 and 2030 contribute to lowering the global GHG emissions trajectory compared to the current path.  


Current pledges, however, are far from sufficient to put the world on a pathway to meet the 2ºC target[4].


To stay below 2ºC, global GHG emissions should be reduced by 22 percent from current levels (of 54 GtCO2-eq) to reach 42 GtCO2-eq in 2030, as concluded by the IPCC and the UNEP Emissions Gap assessment[5]. However, if only unconditional pledges are implemented, global GHG emissions are expected to increase by six percent in 2030, reaching 56 GtCO2-eq (range 54-59). If unconditional and conditional pledges are fully implemented, global GHG emissions will remain at about the current level of 54 GtCO2-eq (range 52-57) [6]. The difference between the projected level of global GHG emissions in 2030 and what they should be to stay below 2ºC, or the emissions gap, is 14 GtCO2-eq (range 12-17)[7], or 33 percent above the 2ºC pathway. This emissions gap is comparable to the annual emissions from the world’s energy production, which totaled 17 GtCO2-eq in 2010[8], to supply electricity, fuel and natural gas used by other sectors. As a reference, without the Paris Agreement pledges, global GHG emissions are projected to reach 65 GtCO2-eq (range 60-70) [9] in 2030, or an increase of about 20 percent.


Moreover, the INDCs are legally non-binding pledges made at the international level. Pledges are subject to approval at the national level through policies, regulations and incentives for their implementation in each country. Thus, pledges may be changed, raising or reducing the overall GHG emission reduction targets.





[1] Climate Action Tracker

[2] Studies on INDCs were developed by Climate Action Tracker, Australian-German Climate and Energy College, Climate Interactive, Danish Energy Agency, European Commission Joint Research Centre, the International Energy Agency, London School of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MILES Project Consortium, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, among others. The Synthesis Report on the aggregate effect of the INDCs by the Climate Change Convention (FCCC/CP/2015/7) and The Emissions Gap Report 2015 by UNEP summarize the research from these studies.  

[3] World Resources Institute (2015): http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/11/insider-why-are-indc-studies-reaching-different-temperature-estimates

[4] UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)

[5] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 6 (2014) and UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)

[6] UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)

[7] UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)

[8] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 1 (2014)

[9] UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)