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How to evaluate commitments and progress towards “Net Zero Emissions”

Patricia Crifo
Patricia Crifo
Professor of Economics at École Polytechnique (IP Paris), Researcher at CREST (CNRS) and Associate Researcher at CIRANO
Ekatarina Ghosh
Ekaterina Ghosh
student in economics of smart cities and climate policies at École Polytechnique (IP Paris)
Key takeaways
  • In order to counter the climate crisis, more than 139 countries have set a NZE (Zero Net Emissions) target to be reached by the year 2050.
  • The Race to Zero project is aimed at private and sub-national actors, who commit to halve global emissions by 2030.
  • The OECD has developed IPAC, a climate measurement and assessment tool to help countries get an overview of their situation.
  • IPAC has four tools: an indicator table; an annual tracking monitor; a scoring and guidance tool; and an interactive platform.
  • While countries are making progress in their climate actions, current commitments are not meeting the targets set: IPAC aims to support and guide countries in this process.

In line with the pri­ma­ry tar­get set for COP26 in Glas­gow in 20211, more and more coun­tries are com­mit­ting to achieve zero net emis­sions (NZE2) by the mid­dle of this cen­tu­ry and to strength­en their nation­al­ly deter­mined con­tri­bu­tions (NDCs3) by 2030. Today, more than 139 coun­tries and unions, includ­ing Chi­na, the Unit­ed States and the Euro­pean Union, cov­er­ing about 83% of glob­al emis­sions, have announced this NZE target. 

Source: zero track­er, https://​zero​track​er​.net/

Moving towards Zero Carbon

Sub-nation­al actors and the pri­vate sec­tor are also step­ping up their own com­mit­ments to reduce emis­sions, includ­ing through the Race to Zero campaign.

Launched at the UNSG Cli­mate Action Sum­mit 2019 by Chilean Pres­i­dent Sebastián Piñera, Race to Zero mobilis­es actors out­side nation­al gov­ern­ments to join the Cli­mate Ambi­tion Alliance and com­mit to halv­ing glob­al emis­sions by 2030. As of Sep­tem­ber 2022, 11,309 non-state actors have com­mit­ted to the cam­paign, includ­ing 8,296 com­pa­nies, 593 finan­cial insti­tu­tions, 1,136 cities, 52 states and regions, 1,125 edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, 64 health insti­tu­tions and 29 oth­er organisations.

Source: Race to zero, https://​race​toze​ro​.unfc​cc​.int/​j​o​i​n​-​t​h​e​-​r​a​c​e​/​w​h​o​s-in/

But do we real­ly have the tools to assess and mea­sure these com­mit­ments? Not real­ly, and it is to fill this gap that the OECD has devel­oped an inno­v­a­tive tool for mea­sur­ing and assess­ing nation­al com­mit­ments: the Inter­na­tion­al Pro­gramme for Cli­mate Action (IPAC).

IPAC, a framework for countries to follow

Ini­tial­ly pro­posed by France and pub­licly sup­port­ed by Pres­i­dent Macron on the occa­sion of the OECD’s 60th anniver­sary in Decem­ber 2020, IPAC was launched in May 2021 and is based on four components:

  • First, a dash­board of cli­mate-relat­ed indi­ca­tors, mea­sur­able and agreed between coun­tries for use in monitoring.
  • Sec­ond, an annu­al cli­mate action mon­i­tor, based on the pre­vi­ous dash­board, pro­vides a sum­ma­ry of coun­tries’ progress towards their own cli­mate and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment goals. This mon­i­tor pro­vides exam­ples of good prac­tice and results in cli­mate mit­i­ga­tion and adaptation.
  • This is fol­lowed by a coun­try rat­ing tool based on envi­ron­men­tal, social and geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tors and con­tain­ing tar­get­ed pol­i­cy advice to help design eco­nom­i­cal­ly viable mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion actions.
  • Final­ly, an inter­ac­tive plat­form for dia­logue and mutu­al learn­ing between coun­tries with dis­cus­sion top­ics on inno­v­a­tive approach­es and good practices.

The phi­los­o­phy behind this approach is to avoid inef­fec­tive or coun­ter­pro­duc­tive poli­cies, which is eas­i­er said than done giv­en the scale of the response required and the need to con­stant­ly adapt to chang­ing nation­al and glob­al cir­cum­stances. IPAC fun­da­men­tal­ly address­es the need for deci­sion-mak­ers to have access to com­pre­hen­sive cli­mate data and tools for mean­ing­ful mon­i­tor­ing, bench­mark­ing, and pol­i­cy analysis.

Using IPAC, gov­ern­ments are able to see where they are, where they are going and how they can improve.

The ben­e­fit of these four IPAC tools is that deci­sion-mak­ers can get both a gran­u­lar and com­pre­hen­sive overview of all rel­e­vant cli­mate-relat­ed data: emis­sions and their caus­es, risks and impacts, and respons­es and actions. In addi­tion, through its research and analy­sis of over 50 coun­tries, the IPAC team is able to har­ness and com­mu­ni­cate the breadth and depth of the data col­lect­ed, shar­ing best prac­tices and encour­ag­ing stake­hold­ers to learn from each oth­er. There­fore, by using the tools and infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed by IPAC, gov­ern­ments can see the big­ger pic­ture: where they are, where they are going and how they can improve.

At COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, OECD Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Math­ias Cor­mann pre­sent­ed the tool as part of a round­table dis­cus­sion at the French Pavil­ion on 7 Novem­ber 2022, with Agnès Pan­nier-Runach­er, France’s Min­is­ter for Ener­gy Tran­si­tion; Espen Barth Eide, Min­is­ter of Cli­mate and Envi­ron­ment in Nor­way; Max­i­m­il­iano Proaño Ugalde, Under­sec­re­tary of the Envi­ron­ment in Chile and Johan Rock­ström, Co-Direc­tor of the Pots­dam Insti­tute for Cli­mate Impact Research.

© Patri­cia Crifo

What remains to be done in France?

These indi­ca­tors play a key role in the sec­ond annu­al cli­mate report to be pub­lished in Novem­ber 2022: it high­lights coun­tries’ expo­sure to cli­mate-relat­ed risks, which are increas­ing in fre­quen­cy and inten­si­ty. To suc­cess­ful­ly mit­i­gate and adapt to these risks, this year’s IPAC Mon­i­tor advis­es gov­ern­ments to use all pol­i­cy tools and mech­a­nisms (non-mar­ket, mar­ket, etc.) at their dis­pos­al, as well as to increase the strin­gency of their measures.

In the case of France, IPAC shows for exam­ple that GHG emis­sion inten­si­ties per unit of GDP and per capi­ta are decreas­ing. This means that, over­all, France is decou­pling emis­sions from both eco­nom­ic out­put and pop­u­la­tion growth.

Source: IPAC Dash­board https://​www​.oecd​.org/​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​-​a​c​t​i​o​n​/​i​p​a​c​/​d​a​s​h​board

On the oth­er hand, the per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion exposed to sum­mer days with tem­per­a­tures above 35°C is increas­ing. Accord­ing to the IPAC score­board, this indi­ca­tor helps to under­stand the pos­si­ble risks of extreme tem­per­a­tures for the pop­u­la­tion. We should keep in mind that France can­not be sat­is­fied with mit­i­gat­ing long-term chron­ic risks and must find solu­tions to deal with acute risks, such as heat­waves, to which it is increas­ing­ly vulnerable.

Source: IPAC Dash­board https://​www​.oecd​.org/​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​-​a​c​t​i​o​n​/​i​p​a​c​/​d​a​s​h​board

In terms of “actions and oppor­tu­ni­ties”, we find that France is increas­ing­ly adopt­ing cli­mate poli­cies, but is not yet adopt­ing the full range of avail­able pol­i­cy options as mea­sured by the OECD, rep­re­sent­ed by the dot­ted line (OECD, 2022). 

Fur­ther­more, it appears that France has cur­rent­ly adopt­ed the largest share of avail­able poli­cies tar­get­ing all sec­tors, fol­lowed by those tar­get­ing the build­ing sec­tor. Giv­en that the French cli­mate strat­e­gy pri­ori­tis­es ener­gy effi­cien­cy in build­ings, it appears that pol­i­cy mak­ing here is aligned with nation­al and munic­i­pal tar­gets. Nev­er­the­less, France has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to adopt a broad­er set of poli­cies, espe­cial­ly those relat­ed to the elec­tric­i­ty sec­tor, where it is lag­ging behind.

Source: IPAC Dash­board https://​www​.oecd​.org/​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​-​a​c​t​i​o​n​/​i​p​a​c​/​d​a​s​h​board

In tack­ling cli­mate change, every coun­try goes through the inevitable process of deter­min­ing the most effec­tive poli­cies in a con­stant­ly chang­ing nation­al and inter­na­tion­al con­text. The urgency to find solu­tions con­tin­ues to grow, and while coun­tries have cer­tain­ly shown progress in their actions and ambi­tions, cur­rent nation­al cli­mate com­mit­ments are still not suf­fi­cient to meet the goals of the Paris Agree­ment. More­over, while coun­tries need to “scale up” their com­mit­ments, many are strug­gling to meet their cur­rent tar­gets. This OECD ini­tia­tive there­fore pro­vides much-need­ed sup­port and encour­ages stake­hold­ers not to shoot blind, but to rely on holis­tic and data-dri­ven tools.

Addi­tion­al data on emis­sions, impacts, risks, actions, and oppor­tu­ni­ties are avail­able in the IPAC dashboard. 

For more info

Nachti­gall, D., Lutz, L., Cár­de­nas Rodríguez, M., Haš­cic, I., and R. Pizarro (2022), “The cli­mate actions and poli­cies mea­sure­ment frame­work: A struc­tured and har­monised cli­mate pol­i­cy data­base to mon­i­tor coun­tries’ mit­i­ga­tion action”,  Envi­ron­ment Work­ing paper No. 203, Pub­li­ca­tion OECD Paris

1The Paris Agree­men­t’s goal of lim­it­ing glob­al warm­ing to 1.5° means reduc­ing emis­sions by 45% by 2030 and achiev­ing net zero emis­sions by 2050.
2“Net zero emis­sions” means that green­house gas emis­sions are reduced to as close to zero as pos­si­ble, with the remain­ing emis­sions in the atmos­phere being reab­sorbed (e.g. by the oceans and forests).
3A “Nation­al­ly Deter­mined Con­tri­bu­tion” is a cli­mate plan to reduce emis­sions and adapt to the effects of cli­mate change. Each Par­ty to the Paris Agree­ment is required to estab­lish an NDC and update it every five years. The Glas­gow cli­mate pact of Novem­ber 2021 requires the tar­gets in the NDCs to be reviewed and strength­ened in 2022, with increased ambi­tion, fur­ther emis­sion reduc­tions and broad­er adap­ta­tion mea­sures.

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