“The Paris Agreement sets an incontrovertible new direction toward a cleaner energy future … We have spent years creating a new vision and now, I argue, we have to work two or three times as hard to make the new reality as laudable as the vision we created.” 1

Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC

The adoption of the Paris Agreement 2 at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was an historic moment, providing a universal platform for all countries to take action towards a commonly agreed goal. Central to the success of COP 21 were the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), 3  which were submitted by more than 190 countries during 2015. These set out each country’s approach to reducing emissions and adapting to a changing climate. (Download the pdf version of the full report here.)

Since COP 21, countries have been invited to confirm these intentions by ratifying the Paris Agreement and submitting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the UNFCCC. In the future, countries will be required to submit updated and more ambitious NDCs every five years. Figure 1 sets out this process. 4

Figure 1. Overview of the implementation process for the Paris Agreement, including the NDC updating cycle
Figure 1. Overview of the implementation process for the Paris Agreement, including the NDC updating cycle * Note that in 2020, countries whose NDC contains a timeframe up to 2025 are urged to communicate an updated NDC by 2020 and every five years thereafter, while countries whose NDC contains a timeframe up to 2030 are requested to communicate or update their contributions by 2020 and to do so thereafter every five years.

NDC implementation can build on and strengthen wider development and social policy, with NDC commitments representing the opportunity to fundamentally shift a country’s approach to economic development and poverty alleviation. Climate change actions identified in NDCs can be integrated and embedded into development planning; they do not necessarily need to be a new and separate process.

Notably, implementing NDCs can support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across all sectors and levels of government. The strong links between NDC implementation and the SDGs are recognised throughout this guide and the reference manual, with background information provided in Appendix 1. The implementation of NDCs can also support other, related international frameworks and agreements, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. 5

This crossover with wider development planning is an opportunity to integrate a gender-sensitive approach into NDC implementation. A gender-sensitive approach to climate compatible development means recognising and addressing the different interests, needs and adaptive capacities of men and women to climate change. Throughout this guide and the accompanying reference manual, we have highlighted opportunities for mainstreaming gender-sensitive approaches into climate policy. 6

To achieve all of this, political leadership at the highest levels will be needed, along with a clear governance structure for implementation. Developing an NDC implementation plan is the first step towards this.

About this Quick-Start Guide

The purpose of this Quick-Start Guide is to support developing countries in implementing their NDCs. It is accompanied by a reference manual which provides more detail on the activities that countries can include in their implementation plans. They are aimed at policy-makers at national and subnational levels, and development partners and practitioners supporting the implementation of NDCs.

This guidance was initiated at the request of a number of developing countries, which are keen to move ahead with implementation and have expressed a need for early practical guidance on how to prepare effective NDC implementation plans and take action in what is a fast-evolving space. Many elements are also applicable to developed countries looking to implement their NDCs.

Each country is at a different stage of climate change policy development and implementation. This guide therefore addresses the diversity in NDCs and the starting points for their implementation. It also takes into account the fact that the requirements under the Paris Agreement do not apply equally to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). At the same time, all countries face common challenges in implementing climate policy, including how to:

  • build awareness of the need for, and benefits of, action among stakeholders, including key government ministries
  • mainstream and integrate climate change into national planning and development processes
  • strengthen the links between subnational and national government plans on climate change
  • build capacity to analyse, develop and implement climate policy
  • establish a mandate for coordinating actions around NDCs and driving their implementation
  • address resource constraints for developing and implementing climate change policy.

We have drawn on our experience of supporting climate and development policy and INDC preparations in a number of countries, and have consulted with a range of stakeholders, including climate and development practitioners, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network’s (CDKN) global network of in-country advisors and international organisations working to support developing countries with implementing their NDCs. It forms part of the international climate community’s support to countries with developing and implementing their climate change plans and commitments. This includes the establishment of the NDC Partnership, which was initiated by the Government of Germany, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

This guide and reference manual do not set out the many mitigation and adaptation policy options that countries could pursue via their NDCs. They do, however, signpost readers to where such resources can be found, including ones that set out specific policy options in different sectors. Appendix 2 lists some useful resources for further guidance and information.

This guide and reference manual are not official UNFCCC publications, nor are they endorsed by the UNFCCC. The views expressed here are those of CDKN and Ricardo Energy & Environment, and not of any particular party or government.

Download the pdf version of the full report here.