Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme, and Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, committed their agencies to work together on developing a template for how countries can incorporate material efficiency into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement.
The two UN agency heads made the commitment at COP25 for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Madrid in December, during a panel discussion hosted by the One Planet network on enhancing resource efficiency and reducing material footprint to meet climate commitments.
“The first thing that I would like to bring to this discussion is more urgent commitment to bringing resource efficiency as a template into the way that we take forward the work on NDCs, and by ‘we taking forward,’ I mean principally countries,” Mr Steiner said.
“Because I think right now the NDCs are still, when it comes to these kinds of issues, in many respects remarkably crude in capturing both the potential opportunity and above all scope for raising levels of ambition.”
The commitment follows the launch of new research from the International Research Panel, which shows that 23% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production of materials, such as steel, cement, plastic and rubber.
This was an increase from just 15% in 1995, demonstrating a significant growth in the contribution to climate change of emissions from material production.
“What I would like to bring to the table is a commitment to, after this meeting, immediately to talk to our colleagues in UNEP who are leading this important work on resource efficiency and see if it cannot provide countries with some kind of template,” Mr Steiner said.
The commitment from the UNDP comes months after the agency launched its ‘climate promise’ to support 100 countries to accelerate the enhancement of national climate pledges by 2020, at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September.
UN Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen commended her UNDP counterpart for his agency’s work on NDCs, and agreed that UNEP would collaborate on a template to support countries to incorporate greenhouse gas emissions reductions from enhancing resource efficiency into their NDCs.
“I think it's a most ambitious thing that you have taken on, promising to support a stretch in 100 NDCs, and I think you're absolutely right about getting a sort of template on what are the elements that we could suggest for these NDCs in terms of resource efficiency,” said Ms Andersen. “This is precisely what we need to do, so let’s just make it happen.”
The move was supported by the UNFCCC Director of Implementation, Martin Frick, who said that while the NDCs brought by countries to COP25 in Madrid contained the right intentions, they are still not specific enough on the details and that many countries are looking for guidance on how to increase their contributions.
“We are pushing very hard to get next year, for the next COP, really substantially ramped-up contributions from our parties,” Mr Frick said. “And for many of them, we are receiving signals that we are being asked ‘How can we do that? How can we ramp up our contributions?’ So, the demand for support for the nationally determined contribution is enormous.”
“I think we have to spread the word about resource efficiency through these networks; through the United Nations, through UNDP, through FAO, through the specialised agencies to really make people aware how heavy a footprint material production is and how innovative possibilities are out there to reduce this footprint.”
Countries will have until late this year to revise their NDCs, before they are officially submitted as the first ‘NDC Cycle’ under the Paris agreement at the next UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow in November 2020.