Only 16 countries meet their commitment to Paris Agreement, new study finds

By Claire Stam |

Three years ago, the EU was leading the pack in the run up to the Paris Climate Change talks. [WeMeanBusiness / Flickr]

Only sixteen countries out of the 197 that have signed the Paris Agreement have defined national climate action plan ambitious enough to meet their pledges, according to a policy brief released on Monday (29 October), ahead of the crucial UN climate conference COP24 in Katowice (Poland) in December.

The 16 countries are: Algeria, Canada, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, FYR Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Samoa, Singapore and Tonga.

“Our analysis reveals that countries are being slow to reproduce their NDC (‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ or climate pledges in UN jargon) commitments as targets in national laws and policies,” the report said.

Implementing the Paris Agreement relies on countries’ translating their commitments set out in the NDCs into national laws and policies, which in turn define quantified and measurable domestic targets, the policy brief explained.

However, it found this translation to be inconsistent with the countries’ climate pledges, a situation that raises doubts about the likelihood of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, it warns.

The study ‘Aligning national and international climate targets’ was released by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, both at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the World Resources Institute.

It compares the quantified targets as defined in the countries’ NDCs and their effective translation into national laws and targets in order to check their consistency in terms of time frames, definitions and ambition.

“Given that a gap already exists between the targets in the Paris Agreement and in countries’ NDCs, it is advisable that countries enhance the stringency and transparency of their current targets as they are expressed in their national laws and policies,” it suggested.

“This is an important step towards greater transparency over countries’ credibility to deliver on their targets.”.

Going beyond lip service

The policy brief recalls what is at stake, namely that the countries’ climate pledges should be more than lip service.

As it is, there remains a significant gap between the global projected emissions in 2030 and emissions compatible with the Paris goals – that is, holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C – with current NDCs collectively limiting global warming between 2.7 and 3.7°C.

The brief found that 157 of the 197 countries, or Parties to the Paris Agreement in UN jargon, have submitted NDCs that include a target for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from their economies as a whole.

These 157 parties were responsible for about 95 per cent of global annual emissions in 2014, it pointed out.

“However, only 58 of the Parties to the Agreement have set economy-wide targets for emissions reductions in their domestic laws or policies, and just 16 of these are as ambitious as, or more ambitious than, the pledges in their NDCs,” it underlines.

The policy brief is being released a few weeks after a landmark IPCC 1.5°C report that showed limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5ºC is still achievable.

But that will require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society, including energy, agriculture, transport, urban and industrial systems.

It will also require the engagement of non-state actors, and the integration of climate action into broader public policies and development frameworks.


Published five weeks ahead of the next UN climate conference, COP24, which will take place 2-14 December in Polish Katowice, the policy brief summed up what the conference is all about: monitoring international progress on commitments.

While the climate protection targets are set at the national level, negotiators will have to define a global common set of binding rules – dubbed the ‘Paris rulebook’ – that is to enable countries to compare, measure and monitor each others’ climate targets and progress.

“In many cases, there is insufficient data to determine the consistency between targets in national laws and policies and NDCs. Countries need to express their targets with more clarity and detail,” the report said. 

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