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Side Event “Looking beyond Mitigation Targets: INDCs on finance, fairness and adaptation”

Saturday, December 5th, 2015 at COP21 in Paris, France

On Saturday, December 5th, 2015 the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in partnership with the German Development Institute (DIE) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) co-hosted a side event entitled, “Looking beyond Mitigation Targets: INDCs on finance, fairness and adaptation.” The event was held in the OECD Pavilion within the accredited zone of COP 21, and was attended by a number of party negotiators, researchers, and civil society observers.

The side event was comprised of four presentations, a panel discussion, and a question and answer session moderated by Dr. Clara Brandi, a Senior Researcher at DIE. Dr. Brandi began by defining Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are contributions that parties submit detailing their intended contributions to help tackle the effects of climate change. Dr. Brandi stated that, “INDCs let countries define their own climate strategies and ambition.”

Dr. Pieter Pauw, a Researcher at DIE, in his presentation detailed the historical process of the INDCs initiated in Warsaw in 2013 to the present. Prior to COP 21 more than 150 countries  had submitted their INDCs, which DIE has analysed through their Klimalog. Through the project, DIE has analysed the INDCs to determine potential mitigation impact of contributions, while also drawing lines of analysis based upon topics included or omitted from INDCS such as loss and damage, fairness, and adaptation. This research will also inform part of an online visualization tool currently being developed by DIE and ACTS.

While mitigation and countries intended commitments to curbing greenhouse gas emissions are included in each INDC, Mr. Pauw said that other key climate change strategies and concepts were often omitted from developed countries’ INDCs. For example, developing countries were more likely to include sections on adaptation, loss and damage, fairness, and historical responsibility. These are key issues for developing countries, reflecting their desire to increase financing and focus on adaptation.

These differences in structure and content of INDCs is due to countries’ specific interests, but also due to the lack of a formal structure or guidelines by the UNFCCC. Dr. Pauw called for the UNFCCC to develop guidelines for when INDCs will be revised. Furthermore, he said that the INDCs can serve as an important tool not only for country action, but also in helping to set the climate agenda.

Mr. Kennedy Liti Mbeva, a Research Fellow at ACTS, presented his analysis of the 43 African INDCs, which were released in a recent report by ACTS. In his analysis of African INDCs, he found that 90% of African INDCs mention climate change in relation to sustainable development. Thus, “climate change is still perceived as a development challenge and not just an environmental challenge,” in Africa.

Through analysing the INDCs, the five key sectors of agriculture, water, health, biodiversity, and forestry emerged as the most important sectors to the continent. Agriculture, which is a key economic activity for the majority of the African population, was the most mentioned sector. This underscores the risks faced by Africa’s agriculture industry by climate change, which will result in the reduction of crop production leading to decreased food security. The other commonality across African INDCs were calls for increased financing and clauses making INDCs conditional upon the availability of funding. Thus, in order for African INDCs to be implemented, financing needs to be made available from the international financing mechanisms to assist countries in the implementation. Additionally, for INDCs to be successfully implemented Mr. Liti called for the harmonization of policy coordination from national to local levels and for governments to work with civil society.

Dr. Anne Olhoff the head of the Climate Resilient Development Program at UNEP Riso Centre gave a presentation of UNEP’s analysis of adaptation within INDCs and the cost projections and gaps for adaptation. Of INDCs submitted, 85% include an adaptation component, but only 52 of the INDCs submitted by developing countries include a quantification of adaptation and financing needs. Dr. Olhoff stated that quantifying adaptation costs is key in order to be able to determine the amount of funding necessary to implement INDCs and bring about successful adaptation.

Mr. Manish Shrivastava a Research Fellow at TERI presented on the idea of fairness within INDCs and the global agreement. He began by inviting participants to consider the various philosophical interpretations of fairness, saying that the concept of fairness is difficult to understand and universally agree upon. But at the essential level, it is about how we relate things to and in relation to others. Within the INDCs and a global climate agreement, fairness is about whether developed countries who have historically contributed a larger amount to climate change have a duty to accept responsibility, provide additional financing, and to be held liable to reimburse nations and communities for loss and damage.

Mr. Axel Olearius from GIZ, reflecting upon the presentations said that the main challenge now is to ensure that INDCs are successfully implemented and that the necessary financing is available to support countries in this process. He said for this to occur, countries need to further strengthen national policies, such as National Adaptation Plans, and ensure coordination across government, civil society, and private sector stakeholders. He also underscored the need to increase awareness among decision makers on the global financing mechanisms and procedures.

The side event through a fruitful discussion amongst panellists and attendees, was able to distil several key points. Firstly, INDCs are an important first step in having countries develop climate change policies and strategies. But there is a need to increase the coherence of INDCs through creating guidelines to ensure they are accurately reflecting the entire climate change landscape, specifically adaptation, loss and damage, and fairness. Secondly, finance will be key to the implementation of INDCs, without committed finance it is unlikely that developing countries will be able to implement INDCs. Thirdly, to ensure successful implementation at a national level, there must be increased cooperation and coherence across all national and local governments, new policies or emboldened existing policies, and increased cooperation with other stakeholders including NGOs and the private sector.

ACTS has held several side events during the duration of COP 21, highlights of each will be sent out. For more information on the ACTS, our side events, or to interview one of our researchers at COP 21 please contact Natasha Frosina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit our webpage