Opening remarks at COP25 High-Level Event

Opening Remarks at COP25 High-Level Event: Enhancing NDCs and Raising Ambition: Partnerships for Delivering UNDP’s Climate Promise

December 11, 2019

As prepared for delivery.



Distinguished Guests,

COP25 is a much-needed extension of the enormous efforts that we have witnessed over the past number of months, including the September Climate Action Summit.

It is a COP focused on continuing the momentum towards more climate ambition from countries -- and putting in place the final set of rules to enable countries to achieve the Paris Agreement.

The need to do so could not be clearer.

Human Development Report

Earlier this week, I launched the 2019 Human Development Report and its Human Development Index in Colombia, along with Colombian President, H.E. Iván Duque Márquez.

The report, entitled Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, Beyond Today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st Century, sets out that inequality is not just about how much someone earns compared to their neighbour.

It is about the unequal distribution of wealth and power, the entrenched social and political norms that are bringing people onto the streets in cities and towns across the world, and the “triggers” that will do so in the future unless something changes.

A full chapter in this new report is dedicated to climate change -- what it calls one of two ‘seismic shifts’, alongside technology, that is threatening to permeate an already weakened social global fabric and drive the growth of new inequalities through the 22nd Century.

And it is safe to say that if the Human Development Index published last week accounted for climate impact, then the rankings would change significantly, and many big emitting countries would plummet. This is something we are looking at for 2020.

What this says to me is that climate change is no longer considered a “fringe issue”.  It is no longer considered something to be managed by a country’s Ministry of Environment alone. Rather, just as it touches on all aspects of how we live, the response to climate change must be systemic.

This is why Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which we are here to talk about today, are so important. They are the vehicle that can get into the heart of Government machinery to trigger systemic change for sustainable development.

Nationally Determined Contributions

On the eve of 2020, as countries are working to strengthen their NDCs ahead of the COP26 deadline, a new level ambition in 2020 is fundamental to get on track to a world where we limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.   

And a new report -- The Heat Is On: Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition, developed in partnership by UNDP and UNFCCC is a snapshot to date of whether the world is in fact “on track” currently. It points out that 75 nations representing 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) -- are deeply committed to doing the right thing right now. That means they are planning to take more climate action than they have already promised.

But it could be said that raising the entire global ambition to the level required is the challenge of our generation.

Ambition was the cornerstone of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit -- and put forward as a challenge not just to governments -- but to civil society, the private sector, and other actors around the world.

Indeed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a rapid and deep changes in our way of life, including to tax pollution and not people -- illustrating the level of ambition needed.

However, what is just as critical to this call for ambition, is the key questions countries are now tackling are the following:

“What does ambition mean in my country?”

-“And how can it help simultaneously deliver our development objectives?”

Today, I would like to define what ambition looks like in the context of development -- and the concrete ways that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting countries take the kind of climate action that is needed as we enter a crucial decade.

UNDP’s Climate Promise

At UNDP, we made our own ambitious commitment at the Climate Action Summit to support 100 countries enhance their NDCs by 2020. The promise is a direct contribution to the NDC Partnership and its Climate Action Enhancement Package.

In less than three months since the official launch in New York in September, the roll-out of the Climate Promise is at full speed.  

Capitalising on UNDP’s global footprint of country offices, we are currently consulting with more than 100 countries, to help them to define the support needed to deliver a more ambitious NDC next year. These include 35 Least Developed Countries, 36 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and 17 “Top 30” emitters.  

A “menu” of services for NDC enhancement will be tailored to each country’s unique context and needs and concrete Work Plans are now being finalized.

This is an ambitious task, and we cannot do it alone.

We are working with many partners both at the global level and in-country to deliver the support countries need.

This collaboration includes our sister UN Agencies, like the UN Environment Programme, FAO, and UNICEF, global funds like the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and organizations with specialized expertise like IRENA, our close partner and tonight’s event co-organizer.

IRENA will be deploying much needed technical assistance to countries on renewable energy -- an area mentioned in 86 per cent of current NDCs and with high potential for driving further mitigation ambition.  – Mr. Francesco La Camera, the Director-General of IRENA, will illustrate this massive potential, and the related support that will be provided under the Climate Promise, in more detail shortly.

UNDP has committed US $25 million of core resources for the Climate Promise, which is additional to our ongoing climate support. We are also mobilizing resources from key donors such as Germany, Spain, Italy, and Sweden, and working in close collaboration with the NDC Partnership.

We have defined five core tasks of the NDC enhancement process which provide the framework for the Climate Promise service offer to countries.   

This includes:

1)      Building political will and societal ownership at national- and sub-national levels -- such as in Ecuador where a participatory NDC enhancement process led to broad inclusion by both Government and wider society;

2)      Reviewing, aligning and updating existing targets, policies and measures -- such as in Ghana where national GHG targets for energy and transport sectors have been disaggregated to adjust projections for various economic growth scenarios and will inform NDC enhancement;

3)      Incorporating new sectors and/or greenhouse gases -- such as in Lao PDR where a Circular Economy Strategy helped identify new sectors to include in the NDC enhancement;

4)      Assessing costs and investment opportunities – such as in Tunisia where they are costing investment requirements and developing investment plans in the energy and industrial process sectors as part of an enhanced NDC;

5)      Monitoring progress and strengthening transparency -- such as in Nigeria where a project registry database of current mitigation actions is being established to track progress towards NDC targets and inform the level of ambition of the next NDC.

Three Key Insights to inform NDCs

UNDP’s current climate portfolio includes over 700 projects in countries across all regions.  Across this scope of work, we have seen several trends and learned many lessons that can help to strengthen the world’s urgent and essential climate efforts in the coming years.

·         First, developing countries are taking a leading role on climate action

An increasing number of countries have committed to enhancing ambition in their NDC, reiterated during the Climate Action Summit with the Ambition Alliance announced by Chile, and the commitment of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and 47 least developed countries (LDCs).

Furthermore, through the initial rollout of the Climate Promise, governments in many developing countries are enthusiastically asking for support to enhance their NDC, demonstrating the will is there and the global leadership to raise ambition is clearly coming directly from developing countries.

·         Second, enhancing NDCs will require a wide-ranging effort encompassing different avenues of action

Countries have already begun to identify ways to enhance their NDCs, from updating NDC targets -- to incorporating additional sectors -- to improving data and modelling for defining the potential of their ambition.

In Lebanon, for example, the NDC is being enhanced through various approaches simultaneously, including refining the targets, strengthening adaptation language, integrating linkages to the SDGs, gender and the Kigali Amendment, and including the Enhanced Transparency Framework agreed at Katowice.

Other countries are similarly building on existing policies and projects to advance ambition. I look forward to hearing more about country’s approaches and experiences during our panel discussion today.

·         And third, many lessons learned from the INDC development processes are informing NDC enhancement.

While Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) did not collectively get the world to the Paris temperature goals, many also did not have full government ownership -- nor did they build on a strong evidence-base – nor did they clearly articulate costs of implementation.

The NDC enhancement processes will now not only aim to raise ambition, but also have stronger foundations to ensure they go beyond what is written on paper and can be easily transformed into concrete, ambition action.     

UNDP taking climate action as an institution / The importance of mobilization

As an institution, UNDP is also taking responsibility for its carbon footprint. Through our new Greening Moonshot, we have set a target to aggressively reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 50 per cent by the year 2030 as well as greening our business practices, because we cannot expect of others what we are not prepared to do ourselves.

Mobilization is also a critical element.

And as of our ambition to become a ‘Digital UNDP’, we decided to explore a new partnership with the gaming community through our “Mission 1.5” Initiative – it is about developing new ways to mobilize all people to inform climate action, reaching out through technology to engage new audiences at scale, such that every person becomes a “player”, in the true sense of the word, in building our climate future.


As we enter this crucial Decade of Action for the SDGs, UNDP’s will walk side-by side with at least 100 countries to submit enhanced NDCs by the end of 2020 through the Climate Promise.

With such an ambitious task, and we cannot do it alone.  We are working with many partners both at the global level and in-country to deliver the support countries need.

And this discussion today, which gathers key partners, can feed into the discussion on new and innovative ways that countries can concretely enhance NDCs in an accelerated manner while advancing our shared development goals.

2020 is the year when we can “make or break” our trajectory towards reaching our goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We must not only talk about raising ambition, now is the time to take decisive climate action.

And with the groundbreaking Climate Promise -- UNDP and our partners are coming together even more closely to support countries to take the action needed to build that zero-carbon, more sustainable and more inclusive world.