With the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the international community committed to keeping the global temperature increase between 1.5 and 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while creating climate resilient societies underpinned by the necessary finance flows to do so. As their individual contribution towards meeting this objective, countries submitted Intended/Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). However, the emission reductions entailed by the NDCs are not enough to keep the world on track to limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Even if they were fully implemented, the world would still be on the path to warming between 3.5 to 4°C, which brings us to the urgent need for raising climate ambition.
Five years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, it is time for countries to step up their commitments to combat the climate crisis. This is particularly important for the region as it is both the largest emitter of GHGs and one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
Given the narrow window of opportunity available to prevent runaway climate change, the coming years and Decade of Action will be critical for securing the enhanced ambitions needed to be on the track for achieving the 1.5°C objective.
Similar to the case of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the focus of governments away from climate action and NDC implementation, turning it into a secondary priority or putting it on hold. Yet, there are considerable opportunities for bringing together COVID-19 and NDC responses.
Enhancing NDCs, which is in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade and reaching net zero by 2050, will require swift action from all stakeholders. The private sector will play a key role, alongside long-term economic incentives for businesses to transition to alternative energy sources. With most of the rules for the operationalization of the Paris Agreement in place, the time is now to rally behind governments and non-Party stakeholders in an unprecedented manner.
Accelerated economic growth has brought remarkable advances in poverty reduction and development in the Asia-Pacific region, home to a majority of the world’s population and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Those achievements though were built on the backbone of fragile regional and global ecosystems/climates, and at the expense of these ecosystems/climates. At the same time, Asian-Pacific countries remain uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change that compound development challenges and are exponential in nature.
Projections indicate regional GHG emissions of 50 GtCO2 in 2060, revealing that the NDC commitments in the Asia-Pacific region fall short of keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C or the available global climate budget of 400 GtCO2, aligned with net-zero emissions in 2050.
Whether the level of ambition in the NDCs is sufficient or not will be revealed through the “Global Stocktake” process in 2023. However, in autumn 2020, many Parties have already shown ownership for the flexible Paris Agreement approach, announcing new and ambitious climate actions to accelerate implementation. Nonetheless, further efforts will be required to sufficiently speed up the process—particularly from the largest economies and GHG emitters.
Knowledge products and learning tools
ESCAP’s paper Progress of NDC Implementation in Asia-Pacific: Methodological Framework and Preliminary Findings presents an assessment framework of enabling factors for improving the readiness of countries to accelerate implementation of the Paris Agreement and develop ambitious NDC reviews.
ESCAP has further developed a training guidebook, Accelerating Implementation of the Paris Agreement in Asia-Pacific: A Guide for Policymakers. This guidebook supports policy and decision makers in understanding the need for accelerated climate action and identifying opportunities to accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and to provide tools, measures, policies, actions, and case studies that can be applied to their national circumstances and update of their NDCs during the review process.
ESCAP’s policy brief Are countries in the Asia-Pacific region initiating a ‘Green Recovery’? What more can be done, intended for policy makers and development practitioners in support of Asian-Pacific countries, provides an overview of COVID-19 responses, how they overlap with climate change mitigation, and recommendations.
Intergovernmental processes and regional dialogues
Regional Climate Weeks (RCWs) inspire individuals and organizations to become part of the momentum created by the global climate agreement in Paris. It is a unique collaborative platform where both governments and non-governmental organizations stakeholders gather to address the gamut of relevant climate issues under one umbrella. Bringing together diverse stakeholders in the public and private sectors around a common goal of addressing climate change, is the main goal of the RCWs.
The RCWs include a series of events that provide space for a grassroots exchange of knowledge and best practices across the region on: Implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Global Climate Action (GCA).
Asia-Pacific Climate Week, 2021
The Regional Climate Weeks in 2021 are key meetings that will help build regional momentum for the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November and drive forward regional implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The events will provide a platform for representatives of national and subnational governments, cities, the private sector, financial institutions and civil society to jointly discuss opportunities for climate action and how to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of COVID-19, the Regional Climate Weeks in 2021 are planned to take place virtually throughout the year and to be divided into three different segments:
VIRTUAL REGIONAL ROUNDTABLES (3-4 March 2021): setting the scene in terms of regional priorities, challenges and opportunities for climate action.
VIRTUAL THEMATIC SESSIONS (6-9 July 2021 in the Asia-Pacific Region): focusing on partnering for the whole society engagement in implementation, managing integrated approaches for climate resilient development, and seizing transformation opportunities.
MINISTERIAL SESSIONS (6-7 September 2021 in the Asia-Pacific Region, hosted by Japan): including interactions with civil society. The High-Level Ministerial segments are tentatively foreseen to take place in-person but depending on the status of the pandemic those could be virtual as well.
Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2019 (APCW) was held from 2-6 September 2019 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. It was organized to voice recommendations and support actions from the Asia-Pacific region on issues such as finance, nature-based solutions, and energy and industry transition in preparations for the UN Secretary General’s (SG’s) Climate Summit. APCW also contributed towards building momentum for the COP 25 held in Madrid, Spain in December 2019.
Technical support and capacity building
Asia-Pacific needs to urgently scale up ambition and improve planning for nationally determined contributions (NDC) implementation. Asia-Pacific member States are embarking on a new 2-year NDC update process, which was derailed with the COVID-19 situation.
Under the area of work, “Raising Climate Ambition,” ESCAP supports countries in meeting their commitments under the Paris Agreement and accelerating Implementation of the agreement. ESCAP partnered with the Yu. A. Izrael, Institute of Global Climate and Ecology (IGCE), Moscow, Russian Federation to develop tools and methodological guidance on GHG inventories and strengthening capacity for Paris Agreement reporting, which are made available in the Russian language on the IGCE website.
In line with the UN’s COVID-19 response, ESCAP is also committed to linking climate ambition to a green and resilient pandemic recovery, for a better recovery. ESCAP is a member of the NDC Partnership. ESCAP supports its Member States in building capacity to strengthen climate action and sustainable resource use, encompassing as well SDG 13 and other relevant SDGs.
ESCAP’s Youth Voices for Climate Action campaign (YV4CA) provides an inclusive region-wide platform for youth to share their concerns and solutions for climate change, as well as a space for youth advocates in the ESCAP region to highlight their commitment to a 1.5°C and net zero 2050 future.
The regional dialogues on carbon pricing (REdiCAP) are organized under the Collaborative Instruments for Ambitious Climate Action (CiACA) workstream of the UN Climate Change secretariat to create platforms for experience exchange, bringing countries at different stages of implementing carbon pricing. These dialogues provide an opportunity to discuss linkages between carbon pricing, NDCs and potential/opportunities to meet sector wide NDC mitigation targets using carbon pricing instruments.
Regional Dialogue on Carbon Pricing (REdiCAP) in Central Asia
UN Climate Change secretariat launched the Needs-based Finance (NBF) project with the objective of facilitating access and mobilization of climate finance for the implementation of priority mitigation and adaptation projects to address the needs identified by developing countries. UN Climate Change Secretariat and ESCAP have teamed up to support Central Asia and South Caucasus countries.