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Source: Small Island Developing States

In recent news about nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the UK has submitted its first NDC to the UNFCCC since its withdrawal from the EU, committing to reduce its economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. In their updated NDCs, Switzerland and Costa Rica commit to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uruguay) and the UK issued a joint statement, encouraging countries and stakeholders to continue reform and ensure the COVID-19 economic recovery is consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

UK Submits First NDC

The UK’s NDC, submitted on 12 December, represents an increase from its previous contribution to the EU’s intended NDC of 40% by 2030, which was estimated to amount to a 53% reduction on reference levels. According to the UK’s independent statutory body, Climate Change Committee, the country’s new target aligns with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pathways towards a 1.5°C goal.

By raising ambition, the UK signals its leadership role as co-host of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in 2021. In 2021, the UK will also preside over the Group of Seven (G7), and COP 26 co-host Italy will hold the Group of 20 (G20) presidency.

The UK intends to meet its NDC mitigation targets through reducing emissions domestically, and reserves the right to use voluntary cooperation, such as through the use of emissions trading systems and emissions reduction or removal units. The UK’s NDC encompasses emissions and removals from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The scope of the NDC does not include emissions from international aviation and shipping. The communication covers the following sectors: energy (including transport); industrial processes and product use; agriculture; land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); and waste.

The NDC informs of institutional structures and updates on policy measures, including an amendment to the UK’s Climate Change Act in 2019, committing the UK to a legally-binding target of net zero emissions by 2050. The Act also introduced carbon budgets for the UK Government, and established the Climate Change Committee to provide advice.

The NDC highlights the UK’s progress on climate action policy areas linked to the SDGs, including:

  • In the area of food security and policy, the UK is phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), including in refrigeration equipment for food storage and distribution, in line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
  • Addressing ocean and marine environment, the UK will introduce a sustainable fisheries policy, giving consideration to climate change in marine planning, building ecological resilience at sea, and protecting natural carbon stores through the UK’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
  • Regarding terrestrial biodiversity in England, the government will publish a new strategy for nature following agreement of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), expected in 2021.
  • To promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, the UK supports a sustainable food system, and has a resources and waste strategy to move towards a more circular and sustainable economy.
  • The UK’s Clean Air Strategy aims to tackle air pollution, noted as the top environmental risk to human health in the UK.

The UK describes its adaptation actions in its Adaptation Communication submitted in parallel to the NDC.

Switzerland Submits Updated and Enhanced NDC

Switzerland’s updated NDC, communicated on 9 December, states its enhanced ambition is in line with IPCC recommendations to reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 40-50% compared with 2010 levels by 2030, to limit global warming to 1.5°C . The country commits to climate neutrality by 2050, which is an increase on its previous objective of a 70-85% emissions reduction by 2050.

The NDC describes Switzerland’s commitment to reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, which corresponds to an average reduction of at least 3% over the period 2021-2030. Switzerland anticipates to reach GHG emissions reductions of at least 35% by 2025. The NDC also represents a “progression” in terms of, inter alia: a 25% increase of the domestic share of emissions reduction, from 60% to at least 75%; and compensation of imported “grey” emissions through additional emission reductions abroad, not counted towards Switzerland’s emissions reduction objectives.

The NDC anticipates Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) from cooperation under Paris Agreement Article 6 “will partly be used.” It informs of Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with Peru and Ghana that govern the transfers of mitigation outcomes and their use, and define the method for corresponding adjustment.

The NDC does not include emissions from international aviation and navigation, although Switzerland’s domestic emissions reduction targets incorporate emissions from national aviation and navigation. According to the NDC, a part of emissions from international aviation is covered by the Swiss emission trading scheme (ETS) as well as by the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme (CORSIA) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In the energy sector, the NDC notes Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050, with the objective to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. The country, it states, needs to replace the share of its nuclear energy, given the government’s decision to gradually phase out nuclear energy. The NDC also notes that, according to Switzerland’s seventh national communication to the UNFCCC, around three-quarters of Switzerland’s GHG emissions result from fossil fuel use.

The NDC informs of a 2019 popular initiative, calling for a constitutional article to stipulate a ban of fossil fuels as of 2050. Switzerland emphasizes it is actively reviewing its remaining fossil fuel subsidies, and is engaged in Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidies Reform (FFFSR) – an informal group of non-G20 countries working to build political consensus on the importance of fossil fuel subsidy reform.

Besides energy (including transport), Switzerland’s mitigation commitments cover industrial processes and product use, agriculture, LULUCF, and waste. Switzerland’s adaptation actions are described in its Adaptation Communication submitted in parallel to the NDC.

Costa Rica Communicates NDC Update

In its NDC update of 11 December (in Spanish), Costa Rica announces it is enhancing its climate ambition and will submit a more specific communication by the end of 2020. The update highlights Costa Rica’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and commitment to a maximum budget of net emissions in the 2021-2030 period of 106.53 million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e).

The submission briefly updates on Costa Rica’s legal and institutional framework for climate action, including the country’s 2018 National Adaptation Policy, and the 2019 National Decarbonization Plan presented as a long-term strategy. Costa Rica informs of an enhanced mitigation commitment to an absolute maximum of net emissions by 2030 of 9.11 million tons CO2e, an improvement on the previous maximum of 9.37 million tons CO2e. This target, according to the submission, is consistent with the country’s long-term strategy and the trajectory towards the 1.5°C goal.

Highlighting the need to close social gaps and strengthen economic and environmental resilience in the country, Costa Rica notes its adaptation actions will be outlined in its forthcoming Adaptation Communication.

UK, Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform Issue Joint Statement  

On 10 December, Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform and the UK issued a joint statement, stressing the importance of a green recovery from COVID-19, without which “there is a risk that fiscal stimulus packages will further entrench the use of fossil fuels.” The statement recalls the principles outlined in the group’s 2015 communiqué, and welcomes renewed political commitments to reform made since 2015 by the G7, the G20, the Vulnerable Twenty (V20), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders, among others.

 The statement recalls the principles that shall inform practical action:

  • Communication and transparency about the merits of subsidy policies;
  • Ambition in the scope and timeframe for reform; and
  • Targeted support to ensure the most vulnerable groups are protected as reforms are implemented.

Subsequently, during the Climate Ambition Summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK will end direct government support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas. [UNFCCC NDC Registry]

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