For the first time, a global agreement on climate change calls for reductions from developed and developing countries. The Paris Agreement, which enters force in November, aims to keep the increase in global temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C aiming for net zero global emissions of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century. The Paris agreement is more ambitious than the basis of the national climate plans that countries have submitted to date so questions looming large are: how to make goals much tighter than countries have proposed as part of longer-term plans?
The agreement invites all countries to design and communicate “mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies” and to do so by 2020. The systematic review of pledges as well as the examination of these plans to decarbonize the economy will be vital to assess collective progress. These long-term plans could enable richer domestic debates about the benefits of a zero-emissions society and about the need to build new coalitions to support the transformation underpinning the Paris Agreement.
Climate change hurts development. Thus, for developing countries, a fundamental task must be tackled upfront: how to integrate a development dimension into these mid-century plans? Considering that by 2050, about 80% of people will live in cities and most of the city growth will come from developing countries, then these plans are about making urbanization work. Latin America already 80% of the population lives in cities, and the quest to integrate development, climate and cities in longer term plans has gained new traction. The region just hosted Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, the UN conference to redefine the new urban agenda with record registration levels – around 36,000 people—for an event centered on how cities are planned and managed and how people use them.
Today, the objective of 2050 plans in the context of the Paris Agreement is to chart a roadmap for change. These plans will need to build on previous efforts while being more disruptive than the traditional efforts to achieve the cheapest options for “carbon abatement”. To succeed they offer a credible and attractive playbook for cleaner and safer development. With more developing countries adopting climate actions, it is critical for these long-term plans to trigger debates about the most appealing strategies needed to break the debilitating silos that for years have kept climate and development experts working in isolation from the other. They can offer a strong signal and framework for companies and financiers to develop long-term strategies.
This paper provides insights to enrich the first generation of long-term plans to 2050 to be delivered by 2018. It is informed by conversations with experts and it seeks to inform audiences that are not familiar with these plans – and might even be skeptical of the need to deliver pathways to 2050. The paper first discusses lessons based on the benefits and limitations of previous efforts to chart mitigation and decarbonization pathways. Second, it identifies what new decarbonization plans to 2050 must do differently and it comments on emerging best practice. Third, it outlines the benefits to governments from supporting more transformative approaches in building these models.