Summer School 2014 on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)

Between September 3rd and 10th, 2014, 28 policy makers and negotiators from 20 developed and developing countries and the EU met in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, for the third Summer School of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV. They discussed how to prepare and implement Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

INDCs are to be developed and presented until March 2015 by countries in the position to do so. They determine the contribution the country is willing and able to make towards the global effort to limit global average temperature increase to a maximum of 2°C (Article 2 of the Convention).  The parties of the UNFCCC decided on its last Conference of Parties in Warsaw (COP 19) at the end of 2013 that all countries should prepare such an INDC which is likely to become in some not yet determined form part of the new agreement that will be adopted in Paris at COP 21 in 2015.  The new agreement will be applicable to all parties, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.

The participants used the 7 days of the Summer School to exchange and mutually learn from each other about their domestic INDC processes. They extensively explored this new instrument of the international climate negotiations, discussed possible domestic processes for its preparation and determined what up-front information would need to be provided with the contributions in order to create transparency for other countries and for the international community to be able to assess whether the contributions by all countries will be enough to meet the below 2°C objective.  The participants benefited amply from the experience of their peers who are currently in similar processes of preparing their INDCs. In a very trustful atmosphere the country representatives in an open-minded manner also touched upon politically more sensitive issues and enhanced their understanding on how to go along with those.

Day 1 – introduction and the 2015 agreement

The first day of the Summer School was dedicated to introducing the topic, discussing the elements of the new agreement that is scheduled to be adopted in 2015 and learning about the views of different countries. These elements could include a long term global goal (e.g. an international carbon budget in line with scientific requirements to stay below 1.5 or 2°C), comparable ambition of mitigation contributions, finance/support, capacity building, and technology transfer, the acknowledgement of non-state actors and sub-national actors’ efforts, dispositions on adaptation, and a compliance regime. The agreement  including national commitments might have an evolving character and become more ambitious over time. It should be applicable to all, taking into account common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. The participants mentioned the possibility for the agreement to have both fix as well as flexible elements (“bones and meat”). The global climate change architecture can thus emerge and compose of the actual 2015 Agreement, a roadmap for decisions to be agreed upon, and subsequent COP decisions.

All participants agreed on the scope of INDCs that they shall include a mitigation goal. However, for many countries adaptation has a short-term priority. Hence, all their climate policy efforts on mitigation depend on what they can do to protect their citizens and effectively implement adaptation measures. Thus it was suggested, that up-front information should include information on adaptation measures (only) if mitigation policies and actions depend on them.

Day 2 – Ambition and the preparation of INDCs

On the second day, participants discussed the difficult issue of ambition of mitigation efforts. It was noted that current efforts will not be enough to bridge the emission gap mapped out in the „UNEP Gap Report“ but that it is still technically possible to stay below the 2°C objective. It is difficult to define ambition and equity.

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Different approaches to compare countries’ ambition level have been discussed as well as how this ambition level can be increased and if a mechanism can be established to increase the ambition level. A measure to quantify ambition and incentives for a race to the top have been proposed. Some of the ways that were mentioned as being helpful for raising a country’s ambition level include good domestic MRV systems, the provision of support through initiatives like the NAMA facility, pressure by non-state actors (NGOs, media, etc.) or by peers, the shedding of light on co-benefits, a regular “cycle of contributions” and their assessment as well as a high level of transparency and comparability between countries’ efforts. In general, countries can increase their ambitious targets while keeping it realistic and achievable in an iterative process. Experiences from various countries showed that the process of preparing an INDC usually starts from BAU, then identifies opportunities, and finally determines different levels of emissions reductions domestically funded and with international support.

Equity, however, is far more complex to be framed in measurable indicators and remains most likely a quality emerging in a dialogue process among Parties. A straight-forward formula for assessing a country’s equitable share in the global efforts to mitigate climate change will therefore probably not be found in the short term. As a way out a narrative can be included by countries in their INDCs, and furthermore transparency is key to make ambition comparable and equity tangible.

Still on the second day, the participants discussed the preparation of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. The process of preparation of an INDC can involve any of the following steps:  analysis (compilation of information), evaluation of costs and needs or gaps, the identification of co-benefits, the prioritization of actions, stakeholder engagement and political endorsement, a national assessment of the own ambition level as well as the packaging and presentation of the INDC. There are, however, some quite important challenges to be addressed. These include the access to data (current and former), limits to time, limits to capacities and financial and human resources, a lack of understanding of what an INDC should include,  a lack of clarity on what compliance and accountability mechanisms will look like and a lack of coordination mechanisms and allocation of responsibilities.

Day 3 + 4 – Excursion, Up-front information and the assessment of INDCs

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The next day participants continued to discuss INDCs. Regarding up-front information, it was found that this is crucial to understand countries’ contributions, to build trust, track global and domestic progress and evaluate and compare ambition levels. It was found that up-front information may include, inter alia, the following: target type, sector coverage, metrics and methodologies used, gases covered, the selection of a base year or a base line, a target year, a percentage reduction, information on the policies to be used and the MRV system to be applied, the treatment of the LULUCF sector, etc.

The assessment of INDCs was considered important by the participants in order for the international community to analyze whether we are on track to meet the below 2°C objective and explore whether the level of ambition of individual contributions can be raised. Although no ready-made solution for the assessment of INDCs could be made out, it was noted that the process may be different before and after Paris, also given time and resource implications of having the Paris deadline. One option is for the post-2020 framework to include a regular “cycle of contributions”, supported by assessments on various aspects, e.g. on individual and aggregate levels, and including assessment of support, implementation, ambition and equity. Given the difficulty and importance of the subject, the international community could also consider setting up a space for exploring how to more effectively assess the ambition and equity level of the contributions that includes methodological development.

Day 5 – Domestic Implementation of Commitments

Regarding the implementation of commitments and its domestic implications, participants noted there is still a need of capacity and institution building to ensure the implementation of commitments and MRV/accounting. In order to be able to achieve their own targets, it was considered extremely helpful by the participants for a country to have, inter alia, a long term vision, an assertive institutional structure including high level political support, a legal framework, policies that incentivize change, an enabling environment, a good stakeholder engagement, a dedicated budget and MRV systems for emissions, policies and actions to reduce emissions, including precise indicators, and support received, particularly financial flows.

Day 6 + 7 – MRV and Accounting

During the last two days, the Summer School participants looked at possible MRV requirements for the new agreement. They emphasized that it is important for the post 2020 regime to build upon lessons from current MRV requirements and include elements to which all parties should aspire taking into account their CBDR+RC. They observed that there are already some commonalities between MRV requirements for developing and developed countries, which provide a starting point for the way forward. However, they also observed gaps which are predominantly related to capacity issues. When designing the MRV requirements of the new agreement, participants said it is important to strike a balance between additional requirements (frequency and level of detail) and their benefit. Initial costs in setting up the MRV system were seen to be a barrier that can be removed by the provision of up-front support and suitable capacity building. When discussing a possible accounting mechanism of the new agreement, the participants first learned that there is still no definition of ‘accounting’ in the context of emissions. However, a working definition was laid out by Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, according to which accounting rules define „what counts“ and lay out a clear framework for assessing countries’ progress and achievements toward their target. Thereby accounting enables the comparison of allowable emissions to accountable emissions

All in all, this year’s Summer School of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV put an even stronger focus on the exchange of experience between participants than the last two Summer Schools. The participants engaged in lively discussions, exchanged experiences with their peers and shared lessons learnt. In addition, they were also able to draw on the expertise of international experts from the World Resources Institute (WRI), UNDP, Ecofys, CAOS, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The Summer School linked the domestic work of practitioners with the UNFCCC negotiations and allowed for representatives from developing and developed countries to exchange experiences and elaborate their own approaches. Whilst not all open questions regarding INDCs, their assessment and MRV were answered at the Summer School, the participants enjoyed being given a space outside the negotiations to discuss the topics in detail and learn about different options, common challenges and possible solutions as well as arguments in favor of those. This opportunity was highly appreciated by all participants.

For further information on INDCs, we would like to highlight the Discussion paper "Process guidance for Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)" issued 2014, which is also available in French and Spanish.

To access and/or download the complete workshop report please see the links section or click here.

Presentations - September 3, 2014

Presentations - September 4, 2014

Presentations - September 8, 2014

Presentations - September 9, 2014

 Presentations - September 10, 2014

Click through the gallery to view pictures from the Summer School 2014