Intended Nationally Determined Contributions

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Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) is a term used under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that all countries that signed the UNFCCC were asked to publish at the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Warsaw, Poland, in November 2013.[1][2] The intended contributions were determined without prejudice to the legal nature of the contributions.[2] The term was intended as a compromise between "quantified emissions limitation and reduction objective" (QUELROs) and "nationally appropriate mitigation actions" (NAMAs) that the Kyoto Protocol used to describe the different legal obligations of developed and developing countries. Under the Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015, the INDC will become the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) when a country ratifies the agreement unless it decides to submit a new NDC at the same time. Once the Paris Agreement is ratified, the NDC will become the first greenhouse gas targets under the UNFCCC that applied equally to both developed and developing countries.[3] On 3 August 2016, China and the US ratified the agreement. Together, they both constitute 38% of total global emission, with China alone emitting 20%.[4] India, with 4.1% of emissions, ratified the Paris Agreement on October 2, 2016 by depositing the instrument of ratification with the United Nations.[5]


The INDCs combine the top-down system of a United Nations climate agreement with bottom-up system-in elements through which countries put forward their agreements in the context of their own national circumstances, capabilities and priorities, within the ambition to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.[3]

The INDCs contain steps taken towards emission reductions and also aim to address steps taken to adapt to climate change impacts, and what support the country needs, or will provide, to address climate change. After the initial submission of INDCs in March 2015, an assessment phase followed to review the impact of the submitted INDCs before the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.[3]


Research released by NewClimate Institute for UNFCCC and UNDP concluded that as of March 2015, one third of the 81 surveyed countries had not yet begun their INDC. Approximately another third had started the national discussion, but not proceeded to the technical design. Submission ambitions vary somewhat geographically; for instance, African countries often reported the latest intended submission dates.[6]

On 27 February 2015, Switzerland became the first nation to submit its INDC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[7] Switzerland said that they had experienced a temperature rise of 1.75 °C since 1864, and aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.[8]

India submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the UNFCCC in October 2015, committing to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels.[9] On its submission, India wrote that it needs "at least USD 2.5 trillion" to achieve its 2015-2030 goals, and that its "international climate finance needs" will be the difference over "what can be made available from domestic sources."[10]

The INDCs of the largest greenhouse gas emitters included China, which targeted a 60-65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 2030, the United States, which targeted a 26-28% reduction by 2025 and the European Union which targeted a 40% reduction compared to 1990 by 2030.[11] India submitted a target of 33-35% per unit of GDP, conditional on finance being made available by developed countries.[2] The EU was criticized by members of civil society claiming that its 40% emission reduction target is not ambitious enough.[8]

Prior to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference a synthesis report was prepared that assessed the impact of all the published INDCs on expected global warming. This incorporated the impact of INDCs submitted for 147 countries, who comprised 80% of total global emissions in 2010. It concluded that if the INDCs were met this would slow the increase in emissions from the 24% increase between 1990 and 2010 to an increase between 2010 and 2030 of between 11% and 23%. However, emissions up to 2030 would amount to 75% of the total emissions that were consistent with limiting global warming to the target of 2°. Therefore, much greater reduction would be required after 2030 in order to reach this target.[12]


Of surveyed countries, 85% reported that they feel challenged by the short timeframe available to develop the INDC. Other challenges reported include difficulty to secure high-level political support, a lack of certainty and guidance on what should be included in INDCs, and limited expertise for the assessment of technical options. However, despite challenges, less than a quarter of countries said they had received international support to prepare their INDCs, and more than a quarter indicated they are still applying for international support.[13] The INDC process and the challenges it is presenting are unique to each country and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach or methodology.[14]


The Climate & Development Knowledge Network prepared a guide for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), setting out an approach towards their INDC that could provide economic and development opportunities. This included:

  • showing that economic growth is compatible with low-carbon and climate-resilient pathways, which will avoid lock-in to high carbon-intensive infrastructure;
  • highlighting the adaptation-related benefits of mitigation actions, as well as other co-benefits including poverty alleviation, health, energy access and security;
  • capturing the potential for mitigation within planned and potential adaptation activities;
  • encouraging other countries to take equivalent action, increasing global ambition and reducing climate impacts;
  • attracting financial, capacity-building, technology transfer and other types of international support.[15]

Integration with national development planning[edit]

A report from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) made the following recommendations to integrate international climate change commitments into national development planning:

  • NDCs should be consistent with national development policies
  • NDCs should follow SMART design principles
  • NDCs should have broad national support
  • NDCs should have clear political backing
  • NDC development should have clear institutional leadership
  • National coordination for climate change and development actions should exist
  • NDC institutions should respond to local development needs
  • NDC spending should be part of national budget planning
  • NDC spending should be monitored and reported
  • NDC spending should be subject to national oversight and scrutiny[16]


  1. ^ "adopted by the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at its nineteenth session" (PDF). United Nations. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "INDC - Climate Policy Observer". Climate Policy Observer. Retrieved 2015-12-15.
  3. ^ a b c "What is an INDC? | World Resources Institute". Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Second wave of climate change proposals (INDCs) expected in September after a first wave in March | NewClimate Institute". Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  7. ^ "INDC - Submissions". Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  8. ^ a b "Switzerland, EU are the first to submit 'Intended Nationally Determined Contributions' | Down To Earth". Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  9. ^ "India to cut emissions intensity". The Hindu. 2015-10-03. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2015-10-03.
  10. ^ "INDIA'S INTENDED NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTION" (PDF). United Nations FCCC. Section 5.1, Third Paragraph. p. 31.
  12. ^ "UNFCCC: INDCs to slow down emissions' growth but more action needed - Climate Policy Observer". Climate Policy Observer. Retrieved 2015-12-15.
  13. ^ "Second wave of climate change proposals (INDCs) expected in September after a first wave in March | NewClimate Institute". Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  14. ^ "Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS): sharing lessons and resources; Climate and Development Knowledge Network". Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  15. ^ "A Guide to INDCs; Climate and Development Knowledge Network" (PDF). Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  16. ^ 10 propositions for success: Integrating international climate change commitments into national development planning, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, accessdate 26 July 2017