NDC Cluster's Strategy Meeting: Aligning recovery needs with climate ambition

September 23, 2020
What do NDC Cluster partners say about the COVID-19 impacts to climate action?

 How are NDCs informing a sustainable recovery around the world? What do recent recovery plans mean for climate action and ambition raising? What innovations arise from the current context? – these were key guiding questions of the NDC Cluster’s Strategy Meeting.

The NDC Support Cluster is a collaborative think tank focused on discussing, synthesizing and disseminating knowledge on NDC and LTS development. It is made up by a sound network of IKI-project implementers, all with strategic relevance, coordinating work on NDC enhancement around the world. Our vision is to build up a ‘spiral-like’ process of evolutionary learning, that continually enhances existing capacity development and knowledge, necessary for implementing NDCs and raising climate ambition.

The COVID-19 pandemic bears many challenges for the climate agenda, affecting the support been delivered to developing countries and emerging economies. For instance, a consultation with the NDC Cluster partners (earlier this year) showed that current pitfalls in partner countries include delays and changed framework conditions for NDC updating and implementation processes, as well as a significant shift in government’s priorities towards short-term crisis management. A lack of hardware and software, insufficient digital skills, and limited access to the internet, therefore, hinder necessary dialogue and technical discussions between stakeholders. 

While COP 26 has been postponed to 1-12 November 2021, and as concrete action for economic recovery unfolds, governments are still expected to submit their new/updated NDCs this year. Such a context opens an opportunity for a better integration of national climate actions plans, long-term strategies, and national plans for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as post-pandemic stimulus packages.

As part of this year’s NDC Cluster Strategy Meeting, held on September 22, 2020, the NDC Cluster partners exchanged on challenges and opportunities, arising against the light of the COVID-19 crisis. More than 50 participants and contributors, from around 20 different organizations and initiatives, identified success factors, provided new approaches and shared possible solutions relevant for IKI-project implementation.


Key highlights from the discussions included the following:

  1. Real ambition vs. rushed new/updated NDCs. Given the possible delays in the development of NDCs, it might be better to aim for good policies for allowing ambition raising, rather than rushing NDC submission this year. Therefore, focusing on green recovery may be more important now than deciding on a new NDC target. However, this kind of decisions will also depend on each partner country’s context.
  1. Thematic innovations: Comprehensive capacity development. In terms of thematic focus, the current pandemic already provides possible entry points for thematic innovations. Although Cluster partners agreed on the need to go beyond classical NDC project thematic focus (raising mitigation ambition), they also expressed diverging ideas on where to focus efforts. Suggestions, however, included prioritizing those sectors and countries with proven emission reduction trajectory, allowing for a combined thematic focus (between mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity), using NDCs/LTS as inspiration for longer-term solutions, and better integrating MRV into NDC progress and the global stocktake.
  1. Modes of delivery: Addressing complexity. Complex processes usually take longer time than what a project can do. As climate change is already a wicked problem, climate projects may need to build agility and space for experimentation, mainly by not only relying on experience, but also by anchoring project milestones in longer transformational processes, enabling cycles of acting-reflecting-adaptation, facilitating learning among projects and stakeholders, and by keeping a country-driven approach.