Understanding Nationally Determined Contributions

By Vositha Wijeynayake 

The first session of the last day of the ADP negotiations commenced with the consultation on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The Parties in this session attempted to define what constitutes NDCs, and how progress in relation to NDCs need to be addressed.

NO to Double Counting

Brazil in its intervention highlighted that for means of implementation, NDCs from Annex 1 countries must provide their commitment with MRV, finance technology, capacity building, and also providing the amount of support through public sources

They also highlighted that in climate finance, there should not be double counting and that attention needs to be paid to avoid this situation. Highlighting the different capacity, Brazil went on to say that developing countries should clarify the NDCs to the extent of their capacities.

“In order to ensure success, we need a successful commitment period,” said Brazil.

Adaptation not to be Included in the NDCs

Grenada pointed out that adaptation should not be included in the NDCs. He also added that while there needs to be responsibility of contributions, there also needs to be differentiation based on the capabilities of countries.  The country emphasised that the time frame for submissions being in the first quarter of 2015 is worrying, as it is too late.

“Time frame is worrying, the deadline for submission set at first quarter of 2015 is too late. If possible, the Parties need to submit before that. We need time to review for it to go into the negotiating text. Developed countries need to take the lead, and with due focus on the circumstances of the small countries,” added the negotiator for Grenada.

What are Contributions?

Many countries attempted to define as to what constitutes contributions, among these was the Philippines. The negotiator stated that the in her search for a meaning to “contributions,” what she came across were focused on matters related to finances.

“The definitions of “contributions” seem to be pointing to something financial, meaning  sharing payments fundraising and so forth. But of course we were trying to see how it is going to applicable to us. First of all it is not one of the mandated new elements,  in this negotiating process, first concern is with different interpretations. This seems to take us away from coming up with a text for Lima. We don’t have contributions under the Convention, we have obligations under the Convention. The trend of discussion does not makes sense till we have a way of aggregating all of these,” she said.

She also focussed on the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) found in Principle 7 of Rio, and highlighted that the developed countries need to amass resources for the developing ones.

Focusing on Capacity Building

Indonesia’s intervention highlighted that NDCs should include capacity building and contributions should not be applied to all countries and it has to go with the principles of CBDR and equity. It also added that adaptation is an important element and that the 2015 agreement needs to contain provisions to enhance adaptation.

“The world cannot avoid the impacts of climate chage even with mitigation. We need to address  adaptation needs,” said the negotiator.

Addressing the issue of MRV, he said that progress on mitigation should be guided by MRV and with regular reporting, and that there needs to be further discussion in more detail  on how ex ante information should be referred, to review mitigation contribution under the 2015 agreement.

Balancing All Elements

“All elements should be balanced, come from the outcomes of Durban, and must be based on principles of the Convention,” said the negotiator for Saudi Arabia. He also added that developed countries should take the lead and that in addressing divergence on the concept of contributions, that the process need to go back to the point where the Parties have agreed.

“When we have divergence we go back to what we have agreed to. The best way forward is to go back to this text and then follow this,” he said.

Among other ideas highlighted were CBDR, global benefits, and that contributions should be a win-win, and not a restriction on trade.

“The way I see contributions is that we really need to have elements. Once we know what these elements are, and we agree it won’t be just mitigation then I think we can have  substantive discussion on how we can progress,” intervened Saudi Arabia.

Contributions Should not Block Development

Malaysia stated that contributions should not hinder a country’s development, and pointed out that money spent on adaptation could have been spent on education, on poverty eradication or mitigation. He added that climate debt is a reality and that it is a manifestation of historic emissions.

“NDCs must be considered in the context and structure of commitments under the Convention. Contributions must be referred to all elements as outlined in 1 CP/17. Annex 1 must be guided by the principles of  the Convention. For non annex the NDC with respect to adaptation and mitigation, capacity building and sustainable development should show the diversity of their capacity and circumstances. We consider the ADP to strengthen the principles of the convention, including CBDR,” said Iran.

The country also highlighted that both principles of equity and CBDR should be reflected in the 2015 Agreement and that developed country parties should show leadership by showing ambition. The view on contributions being a reflection of equity and CBDR was repeated in the intervention of Kuwait.

Developed Countries Should Take the Lead

Russian Federation in its intervention stated, “We have to understand the assumption for contributions. We still lack clarity about very important assumptions which we need to elaborate.

He further added that when Russian Federation speaks of contribution, it wishes to see also the appropriate format for capturing those commitments flexible enough to capture different types of commitments.

“Contributions must be consistent with the developed countries taking the lead. These contributions must be in a spectrum of different types of contributions and some common matrix such as quantifiability should be adopted,” said Trinidad and Tobago.

Contributions and Mitigation, NOT or Mitigation

New Zealand highlighted that contributions should not substitute mitigation undertakings. It stated that the country welcomes the Warsaw decisions, and that contributions will be a necessary element for the Paris outcome.

“The new agreements will have diverse contributions. There is greater need for transparency in advance.  We hear there should be constraints on the part of developed, and full flexibility to the developing countries, it implies to me that NDC is for some and not for others. It would be better to allow allow all parties to do something different, and explain why it is appropriate for their circumstance,” said the negotiator for New Zealand.

Contributions Must be Under Parties’ Sovereignty

Cuba highlighted that the differentiation of the countries needs to be preserved, and that we need to keep in mind that we are not negotiating the Convention.

“In the process, we need to focus on elaboration of the element before getting any decision on the contributions. They are not in an empty box. If it is going to be part of a legal agreement, we need to nationally commit to a more clear and specific definition,” she said.

In concluding the negotiator added that the domestic preparation and contributions are under the Parties’ sovereignty, and not a multi-lateral exercise.

India’s intervention expressed that NDCs will be driven by national circumstances, equity and historic responsibility, and that these must underpin progress.

Speaking on mitigation contributions, the negotiator added that they need to conform to the Convention and should be understood in a differentiating manner. He further added that enhanced action need to be central for post 2020 and that artificial restrictions should not be enabled to block trade.

[Photo credits: IISD]

About the Author:

Vositha WijenayakeVositha Wijenayake is the Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator of CANSA and, Regional Facilitator for Asia for the Southern Voices Programme. She is a lawyer by profession and has an LLM from University College London. She specialises in International Environmental Law and Human Rights Law. She has been tracking the UNFCCC negotiations since 2009 with a legal and gender focus.