Vulnerable developing countries lead world on climate ambition: UN report

“This is not theory, this is not the distant future, this is about survival,” - UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner

September 18, 2019

Developing countries are leading the world in responding to climate change, according to a new report launched today which calls for bold, urgent action to limit the impacts of global warming.

At least 112 countries, including many of those most vulnerable to climate change and least responsible for its causes, aim to update by 2020 their current plans – known as ‘nationally-determined contributions’ or ‘NDCs’ – to fight climate change, according to the report.

This finding was encouraging, according to UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. “In Paris in 2015, countries around the world put their support behind a vision of a resilient, sustainable and low-carbon future for our planet,” he said. “The report shows that governments have taken bold steps to reduce emissions and increase their resilience to climate impacts. The Paris Agreement can work and is working.”

At the same time, lack of awareness and unreliable data remain major bottlenecks in developing countries, and the biggest factor limiting climate ambition is access to or availability of finance, the report says. And while global climate-related finance flows increased by 17 percent from 2015-2016 compared with 2013-2014, reaching US$681 billion in 2016, that figure falls far short of the amount needed.

In opening remarks at the launch event, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed described the report as “the most comprehensive snapshot to date of whether the world is on track” and called for increased climate action: “We have to dig deeper, we need to do so much more,” she said.

Published jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), the report comes less than a week before the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit on September 23.

Expectations for that Summit are high, with an emphasis on national pledges – the Secretary-General has called for leaders to bring “concrete, realistic plans” to enhance those pledges by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050.

In response to that call, UNDP used the launch of the report to also announce a major new initiative to tackle the climate challenge by scaling up its commitment to support enhanced national climate pledges by 2020.

“This is not theory, this is not the distant future, this is about survival,” said Steiner as he announced the climate promise. “UNDP is building on our work on climate action. Our commitment is to support 100 countries in reaching the more ambitious plans the world needs to ensure a future for ourselves, our children and all generations to come. Through this initiative, UNDP will stand shoulder to shoulder with countries as they take bold action,” he added.

UNDP will also expand its portfolio — already the UN System’s biggest on climate change — to scale up global action that already spans some 140 countries. By 2030, it will help 100 million people gain access to clean energy, restore 100 million hectares of degraded lands and conserve another 500 million hectares, and mobilize an additional US$3 billion for climate action in 100 countries.

More key findings:

    - 75 countries, representing 37 % of global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, are leading the way with intentions to enhance ambition in their next NDCs –either by curbing GHG emissions, or including measures to make societies more resilient to climate change, or both. More than 40 are Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Almost three-quarters have indicated their NDCs will include enhancements for adaptation. In sectors such as: water, agriculture, health, ecosystems and forestry.

    - The remaining 37 nations, representing 16 percent of global GHGs, intend to “update” their existing plans. An update may be to reflect latest scientific data or trends in emissions Through this process, however, opportunities for bolder action might emerge.

    - Just 14 nations have signaled they have no plans to submit revised climate plans.

    - 71 countries – including most developed nations – are still deciding on how they intend to approach their NDC revisions. Some nations had already set themselves very ambitious goals in 2015 and therefore may find it harder to do so again. Also, many developing nations want to do more but need finance to match their ambitions.

    - 67 nations intend to incorporate considerations about gender equality and women’s empowerment into their revised plans.

Download the full report here, or see more key findings here.

Contact Information: Dylan Lowthian, UNDP, +1 212 906 5516