Michalina Golinczak

13 June, 2014

INDCs for Dummies

There is one acronym here in Bonn which has been in the tip of everyone‘s tongue, on the edge of their tweets and at the end of every intervention.

INDCfor_dummies-1Although everybody is talking about it, there is no clarity on what INDCs Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – really mean.The phrase was born last year during the Warsaw Climate Change Conference. There, countries committed themselves to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for the intended nationally determined contributions and to communicate them well in advance of the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (by the first quarter of 2015 by those Parties ready to do so). And with that agreement, the INDCs became the essential input to the process of negotiating the Paris agreement.

The term “contribution” appeared late in Warsaw as a compromise between the words “commitment” (used so far in the context of industrialised countries) and “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” (used so far in the context of so called developing countries). This compromise reflects a lack of agreement regarding the nature of future pledges. For many countries, there is still confusion over what may become binding commitments for everyone or commitments for developed countries and (voluntary) actions for developing countries.

During the last few days, negotiators have argued over this difference, as well as the various elements of INDCs, their key aspects and scope, and the way they will continue to be discussed.

Elements of INDCs

There is still no agreement on how broad the term “contributions” is. While some countries interpret it as a synonym of mitigation, others understand it much wider, including adaptation, finance, capacity building and technology transfer or support.

The Warsaw decision left this question open and discussions continue in Bonn. An excellent overview of all different possible contributions is provided by the paper published on Wednesday by Ecofys.

The palette of mitigation actions presented in the document is broad:images-2

  • Emission reduction targets can be formulated in absolute terms or as intensity targets (for example energy consumption). The most ambitious goal would be a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality.
  • Energy targets aim at energy efficiency (for example increase of energy efficiency), renewable energy (for example share of electricity generation), and a coal cap or control target.
  • National policies can include regulations and standards, as well as economic instruments (for example taxes, charges, and subsidies).
  • Projects could also be a kind of a contribution (for example building a hydropower station).

Contributions in context of adaptation could include financial targets for countries providing support or implementation of adaptation action plans.

Financial, technology or capacity building support may become an important part of contributions on an international level. They could be linked to support needs of developing countries for certain policies or projects.

How to move forward

The possible elements of the INDCs are not the only controversy. There is still no agreement on how work of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), where the INDCs are discussed, should move forward. How should the draft negotiating text be prepared? And to what extend the co-chairs supposed to take the initiative? Lack of consensus in this point transpired last week, after the co-chairs issued a draft text for decisions on communication. Some countries welcomed this move, but many others (mainly developing countries) pointed out that they want the whole process to be “party driven”.

images-1Yesterday, the representative of the Philippines made herself really clear:

I have never negotiated with co-chairs, and I am not going to start that now.  (…) Only parties are allowed to table draft decisions and if any Party wanted to table the co-chairs draft decision as their own, they are free to do so.

The discussion will be continued until Sunday. The list of issues, including questions of the time frames the contributions should be set, as well their assessment, review and compliance, is almost as long as the history of the climate talks.

Stay tuned for updates to become a pro on INDCs!

Photo Credit: www.dummies.com

About The Author

Michalina Golinczak

climate and social activist, co-editor of a Polish non-profit socio-political journal called Recykling Idei, member of the newly established Polish Youth Climate Network.

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