Ambition in the making: analysing the preparation and implementation process of the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement

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(behind paywall; article available free of charge upon request)

· Frauke Röser (NewClimate Institute, Berlin, Germany)
· Oscar Widerberg (Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
· Niklas Höhne (NewClimate Institute, Cologne, Germany and Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
· Thomas Day (NewClimate Institute, Berlin, Germany)


Nearly all the world’s governments have prepared and submitted their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), setting out their climate pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement. These NDCs are to be regularly updated, and many countries are expected to submit a new NDC in 2020. While several studies have assessed the content and potential impacts of the NDCs, this article focusses on the preparatory process and asks the question: under what conditions can countries be expected to develop NDCs that are sufficiently ambitious to contribute to fulfilling the Paris Agreement goals? For some countries, in particular developing nations and emerging economies, the process of preparing and implementing NDCs presents challenges in terms of political support; financial, human and technical resources; and analytical capabilities. With a view to improving future NDCs, this article provides insights from the first round of NDCs. Using results from four surveys carried out in 2015, 2017 and 2018 targeting government representatives and other stakeholders from primarily developing countries and emerging economies, the article finds that the NDC preparation process contributed positively to national climate policy processes. For example, it raised political awareness and preparedness for preparing and implementing climate policies across various ministries and agencies. It also prompted institutional innovation and more coordination between various policy areas. However, more can be done to enhance analytical capacity in order for countries to make commitments based on robust analysis and data.

Key policy insights:

  • In many countries, the preparation of the NDCs positively contributed to national climate policy processes by raising awareness and catalysing institutional change.
  • The NDC process improved political buy-in across government and nongovernment stakeholders thereby laying the foundation for future higher NDC and climate policy ambition.
  • A better understanding of broader impacts and the involvement of affected stakeholders in a targeted way could be conducive to reaching the goals defined in the Paris Agreement and support realistic, yet ambitious target setting. Conversely, process-related problems may lead to implementation problems.
  • More analytical, financial and technical resources are needed to implement the first round of NDCs and support countries in preparing future NDC cycles.

Contact for further information: Frauke Röser, Niklas Höhne, Thomas Day