From climate pledges to a low-carbon future

From climate pledges to a low-carbon future
09 December 2015

From climate pledges to a low-carbon future

Chris Dodwell - Climate Change and Sustainability Director

As this issue of RQ goes to press, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is drawing to a close in Paris.

Countries from around the world have made a collective commitment to limit the increase in global temperatures to less than 2° Celsius and have set out their own targets, policies and actions to achieve this, framed as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

In the run-up to COP21 there was much focus on whether the aggregate impact of these INDCs would be enough to meet the agreed temperature limit. The verdict is that they are the necessary first step but they will be insufficient on their own without more ambitious action both before and after 2020. COP21 is nonetheless a very significant agreement: it is the first time that the global community has aimed to implement a legally binding declaration of intent to transition to a low carbon economy.

And having secured this landmark agreement, delivery is vital – the failure to achieve agreed national INDCs could be disastrous to the prospects of any progress in dealing with the economic and social challenges posed by climate change.

So, how can countries ensure they can turn their COP21 commitments not only into action, but also into achievement?

For more than 20 years, Ricardo Energy & Environment has been supporting developed and developing countries in the design and implementation of national climate policies. Over the last year we have helped nations with a combined population of more than 500 million people prepare their INDCs. Based on this broad experience, we believe the COP21 commitments can be achieved if actions are taken forward across five distinct, but intrinsically linked, pillars:

Firstly, political will and effective governance will be needed to maintain momentum and ensure accountability – overseen by capable institutions and, ideally, supported by appropriate legislation. On these foundations must be built long-term, cost-effective mitigation strategies to deliver greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, through national and sector plans aligned with development priorities.

The next requirement is integrated adaptation planning – building long-term resilience to the impacts of climate change. Supporting all this, climate finance frameworks must match support needs against funding streams, and include strategies for how to arrange timely and effective access to them.

Last, and by no means least: effective measurement, reporting and verification systems are vital in order to track implementation and apply lessons learned, thereby enhancing analytical capacity and understanding about which policies work best and why – and informing future policy and practice.

Success in any international endeavour of the scope of COP21 is never guaranteed, but we at Ricardo will work to support countries’ efforts to turn their action plans into real, quantifiable achievements by the systematic application of the five key pillars of INDC implementation – as outlined here and further explained in our recent white paper.

COP21 may be less than perfect, but it offers a clear, agreed way forward, and the failure to seize the opportunities it offers – given what is at stake – cannot to be countenanced. Ricardo, as ever, stands ready to help.

This view point featured in RQ Q4 2015 - click here to download the full publication.