Normalisation of Paris agreement NDCs to enhance transparency and ambition

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© 2019 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. The Paris Agreement takes a bottom-up approach to tackling climate change with parties submitting pledges in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Studies show that the sum of these national pledges falls short of meeting the agreement's 2 °C target. To explore this discrepancy, we analyse individual pledges and classify them into four categories. By doing so, a lack of consistency and transparency is highlighted, which we correct for by performing a normalisation that makes pledges directly comparable. This involves calculating changes in emissions by 2030, using data for the most recent base year of 2015. We find that pledges framed in terms of absolute emission reductions against historical base years generally produce the greatest ambition, with average emission reductions of 16% by 2030. Pledges defined as GDP intensity targets perform the worst with average emission increases of 61% by 2030. We propose that a normalisation procedure of the type as we develop becomes part of the NDC process. It will allow to not only increase the transparency of pledges for policymakers and wider society, but also promote more effective NDCs upon revision as is foreseen to happen every 5 years under the 'ratcheting mechanism' of the agreement.
Original languageEnglish
Article number084008
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2019


  • Paris agreement
  • climate change mitigation
  • climate change policy


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