Keeping 1.5C alive: Will countries put effort to make NDCs compatible? – Golam Moazzem and Abdullah Fahad

Originally posted in The Daily Star on 26 October 2021


Will the 1.5-degree Celsius target be alive by the COP26? This is the key question that has been floating around as we wait for the COP26, starting from October 31 in Glasgow, UK.

The concern is that the commitments expressed in the submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by countries aren’t enough even to keep 2C alive! The COP26 UK Presidency has urged and pressured the countries to submit their new commitments following a 5-year cycle and has requested those who already submitted their new NDCs to increase their emission reduction targets.

Will the countries be ambitious enough to make a new or enhanced commitment for reducing emissions through their NDCs? The good news is that countries are still submitting their NDCs in preparation for the COP26. As of October 18, some 144 parties out of 191 have submitted updated NDCs.

What is in the updated NDCs submitted by countries

Parties to the Paris Agreement committed to submitting emission reduction target every five years. The initial deadline for submission of the new/updated NDC was in December 2020 that was later extended to July 2021.

As of July 31 this year, some 113 out of 191 parties submitted an updated NDC. The number of parties submitted updated NDCs has increased to 141 in the following months. It is likely that more countries will share their new NDCs before the COP Summit.

According to an analysis of the submitted NDCs carried out by the Climate Action Tracker, only one country is found to be ‘agreement compatible’ (Gambia), seven countries as ‘almost sufficient’ (including the UK and Nepal), nine countries are termed as ‘insufficient (including the EU, Japan, Norway, South Africa and the US), 15 countries are termed as ‘highly insufficient’ (including Australia, Brazil, India, South Korea, and Vietnam), and five countries are termed ‘critically insufficient’ (including Russia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia).

Even some countries have reduced their level of ambition against what they committed in 2015. It is expected that countries such as India and China would come forward with new NDCs with renewed targets.

Based on these updated NDC, emissions are likely to decrease by 12 per cent by 2030, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently identified that we need about a 45 per cent net anthropogenic carbon emissions reduction from 2010 level by 2030 to keep 1.5C within our reach. The current level of emissions will lead to an overall increase in the temperature of the planet by 2.7C by the end of this century, which would be catastrophic.

While countries are setting targets, their design in strategies is not compatible with the Paris Agreement. A total of 10 indicators have been identified to evaluate the comprehensiveness of the national net-zero target design.

The indicators are (1) target year, (2) emissions coverage, (3) international aviation and shipping, (4) reductions of emissions outside of own border, (5) legal status, (6) separate reduction and removal targets, (7) review process, (8) carbon dioxide removal, (9) comprehensive planning, and (10) clarity on the fairness of targets.

According to the indicators, the EU is found to be ‘acceptable’ while Germany is ‘average’, and Japan and South Korea are ‘poor’.

There is a lack of information for several countries to do this exercise, such as the US, China, and Brazil. It is important to note that the continuation of financial support by G20 countries, such as high subsidies allocated for fossil fuel ($3.3 trillion by G20 countries between 2015 and 2019), had an adverse effect on the reduction of carbon emissions.

The new NDCs reveal that coal will still dominate as a major source of energy in many Asian countries. Interestingly many countries have planned to shift from coal to natural gas or liquefied natural gas, which is also a fossil fuel and has remained a problem. Moreover, a number of Asian countries perform poorly in the reduction of carbon emissions outside the national border. The countries include Japan and South Korea. These would have an adverse effect on the reduction of emissions in many developing countries having important trade and investment ties with these countries.

CVF’s ‘Emergency Pact’ on NDCs

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an international partnership of countries highly vulnerable to a warming planet, hascalled for an ’emergency pact’ targeting the developing countries in meeting their commitments. The Pact includes reviewing the countries to update their climate plans every year till 2025. Given the urgency of higher reduction of carbon emission, such an urge of the CVF has logical reasoning.

The CVF calls for an arrangement of debt-for-climate swaps under which a part of debt servicing payments to be used for funding renewable energy projects in CVF countries.

Bangladesh’s updated NDCs

Bangladesh submitted its updated NDC on August 26, 2021. This NDC addresses additional sectors following the previous one. It covers energy, industrial processes and product use, agriculture, forestry, and other land use, and waste sectors.

The energy sector includes power, transport, energy use in industry, residential, commercial, agriculture, brick manufacturing, F-gases, and fugitive emissions.

In its first submission in 2015, Bangladesh proposed to reduce GHG emissions in three sectors: power, transport, and industry. An unconditional reduction of GHG emissions by 5 per cent from the business as usual (BAU) level and a conditional – contribution assuming additional international support – reduction of 15 per cent GHG emissions were proposed in the three sectors.

The updated NDC targets a 6.75 per cent reduction in unconditional and an additional 15.12 per cent reduction in the conditional scenario from the BAU level by 2030. While these reduction targets may appear similar to the previous one, in the revised NDC, Bangladesh proposed reducing 27.56 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) in a conditional scenario where it was 12 MtCO2e in the previous one. In the conditional scenario, it is now 89.47 MtCO2e, where it was 36 MtCO2e before.

To deliver the unconditional scenario, Bangladesh proposed some possible mitigation actions in the updated NDC. The latest NDC suggested the implementation of renewable energy projects with a capacity of 911.8 MW (Solar 581 MW, Wind 149 MW, Biomass 20 MW, Biogas 5 MW, New Hydro 100 MW, Mini-grid Solar 56.8 MW).

Interestingly, it offers installation of new 3,208 MW combined cycle gas-based power plant and efficiency improvement of existing 570 MW gas turbine power plants to reduce GHG emission in the power sector.

About 5 per cent fuel efficiency was planned through the improvement of road traffic congestion, and a 10 per cent modal shift in passenger-km from road to rail was proposed for the transport sector.

Bangladesh has developed an “Energy Efficiency and Conservation Master Plan up to 2030”. Ten per cent energy efficiency can be achieved through this plan in the industrial sector.

In order to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector, Bangladesh plans to install 5,925 solar irrigation pumps with a generation capacity of 176.38 MW. Increasing tree cover from 22.37 per cent in 2014 to 24 per cent by 2030 is another proposed action in the updated NDC.

However, Bangladesh could consider providing a conditional offer for transforming its overwhelming fossil fuel-based power sector into a renewable energy-based power sector if necessary resources are made available for the retirement of coal/fossil fuel-based plants and for setting up renewable energy-based power plants.

The authors are respectively the research director and a senior research associate of the Centre for Policy Dialogue.