Comment on UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)

Published:04 December 2020

Commenting on the new climate target, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), announced today by Boris Johnson, Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: "The UK's NDC has been a long time coming, and it's important that government is publishing it before the end of 2020, living up to the commitment that all countries made in the Paris Agreement.

"While the level of ambition won't please all campaigners, this is the most significant NDC announcement so far from any major economy, increasing the pace of carbon-cutting by about 50% and accelerating opportunities for companies in low-carbon sectors. Meeting it would put the UK on track to delivering on its net zero target for 2050, and sets down a marker for other prosperous nations regarding their own minimum level of NDC ambition.

"The huge falls seen in the cost of renewable energy and batteries mean that decarbonisation is turning out to be cheaper than anyone thought just a few years back, while concern about climate change is rising in many countries - so it would be logical to expect other nations to come forward now with a degree of ambition similar to or higher than the UK's."

More detailed analysis of the UK NDC by Richard Black is available here.

Adair Turner, Senior Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) and Chair, the Energy Transitions Commission, said: "The UK’s new target of 68% emissions reductions below 1990 levels by 2030 is a hugely welcome contribution to the fight against climate change, and will encourage other countries to bring forward strong commitments.

"It is also clearly achievable at low cost provided the government now brings forward clear policies to drive rapid decarbonisation of electricity production, accelerated progress towards road transport electrification and early action to put residential heat emissions on a downward path."

Background:

The UK’s NDC, or Nationally Determined Contribution, is the pledge that the UK will put forward, as will many other countries, ahead of COP26, the UN climate summit that the UK will host in Glasgow in November 2021.

The UK NDC is based on the advice from the CCC and is expected to be a starting point for the UK to accelerate its green transition and become an international front runner in delivering the low carbon global economy.

The 2030 target should not defer action to later this decade, rather it should drive a new stimulus for green jobs, decarbonised electricity, energy efficient homes and zero emissions transport, to potentially set up for higher ambition later in the 2020s.

This is the first time the UK has presented an NDC outside of the EU, which is expected to present its own increased NDC next week. These commitments will put further pressure on other major economies, such as China, Japan and South Korea, to present ambitious 2030 targets which commit them to near term ambitious action towards their long-term net zero goals.

Key points:

  • While the headline NDC figure is expected to exclude emissions from international aviation and shipping, the CCC advises that the government include a clear commitment to cut emissions from this sector. The UK IAS (International Aviation and Shipping) emissions have increased significantly since 1990, and as yet are not part of UK commitments.
  • The CCC strongly presses that the target should be delivered domestically within the UK’s territory and not through international offsetting. Any international offsetting to reach the goal would compromise UK domestic leadership.
  • The UK has an opportunity to review and potentially increase its NDC mid-decade through the UNFCCC stocktake and ratchet mechanism.

UN member states will be called on to submit new NDCs on the 12th December 2020, when the United Kingdom, the United Nations and France, in partnership with Chile and Italy, will co-host a virtual Climate Ambition Summit 2020 to build momentum ahead of COP26 in Glasgow and to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. A briefing note on the Climate Ambition Summit is available here, with comments from panellists at a recent ECIU media briefing available here.

Dr Alison Doig, International Lead at ECIU, said: "With the UK announcing its new NDC and 2030 target, and an increased EU commitment expected to follow next week, momentum appears to be taking shape in the build up to next week's Climate Ambition Summit.

"Countries have been challenged to come forward at the Summit with enhanced commitments to deliver the Paris Agreement and keep the 1.5C climate warming target within reach. We will wait to see which of the major global economies, such as China, Japan and South Korea, will be willing to up their game and achieve emissions reductions for this decade."

EU member states will meet at the European Council summit on 10-11 December, and the bloc’s NDC is likely to be announced then. Recent analysis by Climate Action Tracker suggested that global climate pledges in the latter half of 2020 would bring the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C limit ‘within striking distance’.

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