Fact Sheet - Preparing for a new global climate agreement

Domestic PolicyTaskforces on Past Domestic Policy InitiativesInternational Policy
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Publication author(s):
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Publication abstract:

In preparation for this year's Paris conference (30 November – 11 December) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries will bring forward 'intended nationally determined contributions' setting out the targets they will adopt from 2020 onwards.

Countries have agreed that targets should be contributions towards achieving the ultimate goal of the UNFCCC, to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system" (UNFCCC, Article 2).  Countries have also agreed that contributions will be nationally determined, so rather than negotiating emissions reduction pledges, countries will decide for themselves what actions are best suited to their own circumstances. 

In preparation for this year's Paris conference (30 November – 11 December) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries will bring forward 'intended nationally determined contributions' (INDCs) setting out the targets they will adopt from 2020 onwards.

Countries have agreed that targets should be contributions towards achieving the ultimate goal of the UNFCCC, to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system" (UNFCCC, Article 2).  Countries have also agreed that contributions will be nationally determined, so rather than negotiating emissions reduction pledges, countries will decide for themselves what actions are best suited to their own circumstances.

At the UNFCCC's Lima conference in December 2014, all countries agreed the international expectations for INDCs, including that they be:

  • a progression beyond the country's current undertaking; and
  • transparent, easy to understand and announced well in advance of the Paris meeting.

To facilitate the clarity of INDCs, countries have been encouraged to include information about their targets, such as the reference point (base year), time frames and/or periods for implementation, coverage of greenhouse gases and sectors, planning processes, assumptions and accounting approaches.

Countries are also expected to explain how the INDC is fair and ambitious in light of their national circumstances, and how it contributes towards achieving the UNFCCC's ultimate objective.

The scope of commitments under the new agreement, and its legal form, are still being negotiated. All countries are undertaking their own processes to develop an intended nationally determined contribution. These targets will be submitted to the UNFCCC over the course of the year.

To date, the European Union has submitted a target of 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 and Switzerland has submitted a target of 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.  The United States has indicated it may adopt a target of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. China has flagged a commitment to peak their greenhouse gas emissions around 2030 while increasing the non‑fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20 per cent by 2030.

The UNFCCC will publish each country's INDC on its website.

Further information on Australia's position, including Australia's latest submissions to the UNFCCC, can be found on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Further information on negotiations, countries' post-2020 targets and expectations for the Paris Conference can be found on the UNFCCC webpage and the dedicated website of the French Government.

You may also find these links useful.

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