Beyond Aspirational Consensus: Increasing Credibility of the INDCs After Paris

Making credible the ambition expressed in the Paris Agreement becomes the focus in the afterglow of the COP21 climate conference. As always, the devil is in the details.

A report released today by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science explores the credibility, not the ambition, of climate pledges from G20 nations.

Analyzing the “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) of the more than 180 nations submitting pledges before COP21, the report concludes that while no G20 country INDC is without credible climate commitments, many have an “opportunity to actively improve the credibility of their current and future commitments in their NDCs.”

Build confidence in the Paris Agreement

Report authors Alina Averchenkova and Samuela Bassi based their analysis upon several defined critical elements of credibility. The authors applied this framework of determinants to each country’s INDC pledge. The conclusion is that governments, including G20 members, should “strengthen the credibility of their pledges to limit or reduce annual emissions of greenhouse gases to build confidence in the Paris Agreement.

“No INDC from a G20 country is found to have ‘no credible basis’ across all the determinants explored in this analysis,” the report states. “However, there are significant differences in the level of and balance among the determinants of credibility for the individual G20 members.”

Averchenkova and Bassi suggest in their report that “strengthening their policies and legislation; the transparency, effectiveness, and inclusiveness of their decision-making process, and their climate change public bodies” offer the best opportunities for accomplishing the goal of increasing the feasibility of current and future national climate pledges.  

“This can be done, for example, by: adopting framework legislation and/or implementing carbon pricing mechanisms; assigning clear responsibility for climate change policy and establishing independent consultative bodies; creating inclusive processes for consulting and involving stakeholders; increasing the frequency of preparing greenhouse gas inventories; and improving public awareness about climate change.”

“Almost all the emission reductions pledged by G20 countries appear to be underpinned by policy and legislation that is at least ‘moderately supportive’ in terms of credibility,” the report added.

“However, G20 countries’ emissions targets were found to score lower on the transparency, inclusiveness and effectiveness of their decision-making processes and the level of political constraints to limit policy reversal, and on the existence of dedicated and independent public bodies on climate change.”

Degrees of credibility 

The report said many determinants for some G20 nations are “largely supportive” in the context of credibility. Among these nations are the EU and its individual G20 members of France, Germany, Italy, and the UK, along with South Korea

Indicators from many other nations are “moderately supportive” of the credibility of the INDCs but “display a significant weakness in one determinant.” This set of countries includes Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, and the United States.

 Still, other nations, including Argentina, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, need to “significantly increase credibility across most determinants.”

The road beyond Paris

The Paris Agreement was a milestone for international cooperation in climate action. The submitted INDCs are an essential first step, but this report shows that these climate pledges must move beyond aspiration into real, credible action.

 Image by the author; all rights reserved.

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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