Implementing the Paris Agreement: 1st Year Progress Report

One year after the Paris Agreement officially entered into force, how are countries doing on meeting their climate commitments? More than 160 countries have formally joined the agreement, and are moving forward to implement policies to tackle climate change. Some of the world’s largest emitters are taking bold action. While President Trump keeps pretending that other nations are not addressing climate change, some countries, plus many states and cities in the US, are taking the lead on climate action.

Here is a progress report on how key countries are doing on meeting their climate commitments. See NRDC's issue briefs on each country for additional information.

China

China has made significant progress towards its Paris targets. Coal consumption has remained relatively flat since its peak in 2013, and China’s wind and solar energy deployment continue to grow at the fastest pace in the world. China is implementing a variety of measures to meet its climate goals, including a national carbon cap-and-trade program, a green dispatch policy, and a mandatory national cap on coal consumption as part of its 13th Five-Year Plan for 2016 to 2020. 

  • Renewables: China set an ambitious target for wind power, aiming to reach 200 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, up from 129 GW in 2015. It also planned for solar capacity to reach 100 GW by 2020, up from nearly 43 GW in 2015. In a move of ambitious leadership, after realizing it could surpass these targets, China revised its wind and solar energy targets to 260 GW and 210 GW by 2020, respectively.
  • Buildings: China is taking measures to make its buildings more energy efficient by adopting increasingly stringent standards for new construction and energy efficiency retrofits for existing buildings.
  • Vehicles: China’s Ministry of Information and Industry Technology has announced it is working on a phase out plan for the sale of petrol vehicles. China is strengthening its vehicle emission standards to be as strict or stricter than existing standards in the United States and the European Union.
  • Cap and Trade: China will establish a nationwide carbon cap-and-trade program in late 2017 or early 2018, setting a price on carbon in major industrial sectors like power, aluminum, and cement.
  • Read the full issue brief on China.

India

To build a low-carbon future and curb climate change, the Indian government has committed to deploying expansive solar and wind energy capacity and adopting an array of ambitious climate actions.

  • Renewables: India is on track to meet, or even surpass, its Paris climate targets. In just one year, from 2016 to 2017, India increased its renewable energy capacity by 11.3 GW—making critical progress towards its target to install 100 GW of solar and 60 GW wind by 2022. India is making significant strides in developing strong policies supporting both wind and solar energy that could create up to 1 million job opportunities for over 300,000 workers by 2022. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited disbursed over $700 million in loans to clean-energy projects in 2015 and 2016, and are targeting $984 million for 2017
  • Coal: In 2017, India cancelled 13.7 GW of planned coal plants and announced that no new plants would be built until at least 2026. India has also made significant progress on energy efficient appliances.
  • Energy Efficiency: The Ministry of Power has established a mandatory efficiency star-rating system for refrigerators, air conditioners, tube lights, and transformers, and a voluntary star-rating labeling system for more than a dozen other appliances.
  • Vehicles: India released the Auto Fuel Vision and Policy 2025 to increase fuel quality designed to reduce emissions by 2025. In 2017, India established an ambitious but encouraging target of selling only electric vehicles by 2030.
  • Read the full issue brief on India

European Union

The EU is making progress towards its target through its 2030 climate and energy framework. The EU’s nationally determined contribution (NDC), which will be updated regularly as part of the agreement, includes an economy-wide GHG emissions reduction target of at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. While Member states’ carbon targets for 2030 are a step in the right direction, more action is needed to ensure the EU’s target is realized and even overachieved.

  • National targets: In the summer of 2016, the European Union proposed carbon targets for 2030 for each member state. This draft law of the Effort Sharing Regulation aims to reduce emissions for sectors outside the Emissions Trading Scheme. The Effort Sharing Decision establishes 2020 emissions targets for sectors not covered by the ETS, such as transport (except aviation and international maritime shipping), buildings, agriculture, and waste. The EU’s targets are relatively ambitious, but the path to implementation needs clarification—especially emissions reduction plans for specific industries. Member states’ carbon targets for 2030 are a step in the right direction, but more action is needed to ensure the EU’s NDC is realized and even overachieved.
  • Renewables: The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive sets a binding target that 20 percent of the final energy mix must be sourced from renewable resources by 2020.
  • Read the full issue brief on the European Union

Canada

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election in October 2015, the government of Canada has renewed its focus on climate change mitigation policies. In December 2016, Canada’s national and subnational governments came together to unveil the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change—Canada’s first truly comprehensive climate action plan. However, enhanced climate policies are still needed to fulfill Canada’s international obligations unveiled the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change—Canada’s first truly comprehensive climate action plan. However, enhanced climate policies are still needed to fulfill Canada’s international obligations.

  • Vehicles: Canada has established progressively stronger GHG emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles (model years 2014 to 2018) and for passenger automobiles and light trucks (2011 to 2025). The federal government intends to develop a zero-emissions vehicle strategy and Clean Fuel Standard in the near future
  • Coal: In the power sector, Canada’s coal-fired electricity standards ban the construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units and accelerate the retirement of existing coal-fired power plants to achieve a coal phaseout by 2030.
  • Oil and Gas: Recent actions by the Trudeau government, including the promotion of oil sands pipelines and the approvals of a $36 billion liquefied natural gas export terminal and the $5 billion Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, could lock in carbon emissions for decades to come making it even more difficult for Canada to honor its climate commitments.
  • Carbon Pricing: Trudeau announced that by 2018, all provinces should have a price on carbon in place. Currently, eight of ten provinces have either agreed to or implemented a carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme. For provinces that do not adopt a floor price of CAD$10 per ton by January 2018, the federal government has declared it will implement the appropriate benchmark price.
  • Infrastructure: Canada has committed to developing net-zero emissions building codes starting in 2020 and developing a retrofit code for existing buildings by 2022. The government will introduce mandatory labeling of building energy use as early as 2019. The federal government is also in the process of creating the national-level Canada Infrastructure Bank, which could help finance commercial-scale energy efficiency projects.
  • Subnational Action: Ontario retired all coal-fired generation units at the end of 2014. Nova Scotia instituted a cap on emissions and a renewable portfolio standard requiring renewable resources to make up 40 percent of electricity sales by 2020. Manitoba introduced a tax on coal-fired power plants in 2012 and will implement a ban on coal and petroleum coke for home heating use.
  • Read the full issue brief on Canada

Mexico

Mexico has been making progress on climate change policies both domestically and internationally, but the country must increase its efforts to transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy resources if it is to meet its target.

  • Adaptation: Mexico’s pledge was also the first to address adaptation to climate change, including increasing the climate resilience of communities, key ecosystems, infrastructure, and economic sectors. This is a critical element for a country as vulnerable as Mexico. Importantly, the adaptation component focuses on preparing for and preventing climate vulnerabilities, rather than just responding to climate-related disasters. Its goals include reducing the number of vulnerable municipalities by at least 50 percent, increasing financing for disaster prevention as opposed to disaster response, eliminating deforestation by 2030, and incorporating adaptation criteria in public infrastructure investment projects.
  • Industry: Mexico’s goal of producing 35 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2024 is expected to reduce industrial emissions. Substituting heavy fuels with natural gas and biomass will also reduce emissions from industry. Methane leaks, venting, and burning will be reduced, and soot particulates from industrial equipment and facilities will be controlled.
  • Finance: Mexico is also utilizing several market and financial mechanisms to reach its climate goals. The energy sector reform established a new clean energy certificates market that will go into effect in 2018. In 2014, Mexico introduced a carbon tax of approximately $3.50 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that applies to fossil fuels, excluding natural gas. Mexico also launched a carbon market simulation to familiarize companies with carbon trading and guide the development of a real carbon market to be implemented in 2018. A green bonds market is emerging in Mexico and a Consultative Board for Climate Finance has been created as a joint effort by the Mexican Stock Exchange and Climate Bonds Initiative to promote green standards for different types of projects and markets
  • Subnational Action: In December 2016, Mexico City became the first city in Latin America to issue a green bond. The US$50 million bond will help pay for energy efficient street lighting, bus rapid transit improvements, and modernizing water infrastructure.
  • Read the full issue brief on Mexico

United States

The change in policy direction under the Trump administration has called into question whether the US climate commitment for the Paris Agreement will be achieved. Durable existing policies, market forces, and enhanced subnational leadership will ensure the United States continues to reduce emissions; however, the likelihood of reaching the NDC target is unclear.

  • Renewables: Low-carbon energy generation reached record highs in 2016, providing more than one-eighth of the U. S.’s electricity. Coal-fired power generation reached historic lows, producing only one-third of the U.S.’s electricity, down from half in 2005. Carbon emissions from power generation dropped below those of transportation in 2015 for the first time in modern history, primarily as a result of soaring solar and wind power generation, energy efficiency gains, and the transition from coal to natural gas. In September 2017, the DOE announced that its SunShot Initiative target of reducing the 2020 cost of utility-scale solar by nearly 30 percent had already been met—three years ahead of schedule. wind energy accounted for the largest source of new energy capacity last year
  • Power: Implementation of the CPP had already been “paused” by the Supreme Court in 2016 following a legal challenge by some states. However, power sector emissions in 2016 in the United States had already fallen by more than 10 percent from the CPP baseline. In other words, the power sector has already achieved more than half of the CPP’s envisioned emissions reductions for 2030—in the past four years alone.
  • Transport: Federal and state funding has supported local expansion of hybrid, electric, and natural gas transit buses and the development of electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure. In part because of these efforts, the United States is the largest global market for electric vehicles.
  • Methane: In May 2017, President Trump’s EPA attempted to delay standards to limit methane pollution from new oil and gas production. A number of nongovernmental organizations mounted a legal challenge, and in July 2017, the federal appeals court found that the EPA had acted Illegally.
  • Subnational Action: Following the announcement of President Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, 14 states and one territory have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance to assert their commitment to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. California and New York recently enacted aggressive standards that require 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Some 377 mayors representing 67 million Americans have committed to uphold the Paris Agreement since President Trump’s announcement of his intention to withdraw. Thirty-nine of the most populated U.S. cities have committed to set a quantified emissions reduction target and report on their progress.
  • Read the full issue brief on the United States

Japan

Japan needs to raise the ambition of its emissions reduction target and stop its rapid expansion of new coal power plants. International and domestic analysts and environmental groups consider Japan’s NDC unambitious.

  • Power: Japan could meet its target with minimal additional effort, indicating the submission of an NDC that does not contribute a fair share to global efforts. Japanese environmental experts have pointed out that the 2030 goal from the Basic Energy Plan conflicts with the Paris Agreement’s goal of reducing GHG emissions to net-zero by the second half of the century. In addition, the Plan includes 20 to 22 percent reliance on nuclear power, which is unrealistic given post-Fukushima opposition to nuclear energy.
  • Energy Efficiency: The Japanese government has not adopted sufficient energy efficiency regulations to mandate these reductions. Kiko Network, an environmental NGO, has pointed out that Japan’s policies are neither consistent with the long-term target of reducing GHGs by 80 percent by 2050
  • Coal: Today the nation has more than 90 coal power plants, more than half of which are less than 20 years old and could operate for many years to come. Forty-nine new coal plants have also been planned since 2012. To date, four of the plants were stopped, while three plants have started operations. If built, the remaining 42 plants would add another 20.5GW of coal capacity. These new plants alone would increase Japan’s GHG emissions by 9 percent relative to 2015 levels. Unfortunately, the current set of coal projects in development would exceed the Basic Energy Plan’s goal of 26 percent coal power in the energy mix by 2030. METI has issued new efficiency standards for new power plants and another set of standards for existing power plants. However, these standards are entirely voluntary. In addition, because the government’s new voluntary efficiency standards for power plants do not apply to projects already under development, such projects could lead to a massive increase in emissions.
  • Read the full issue brief on Japan

Brazil

Brazil has put forward some actions to help meet its target, but recent political developments in the country have led to a spike in deforestation rates and threats to protected areas, which may hamper national progress in mitigation. A recent economic recession and a small improvement in renewables led to a 5 percent slump on emissions in the energy sector in 2015. However, emissions from land-use change increased by 11 percent that same year, resulting in an overall 3.5 percent growth in national emissions.

  • Deforestation: In 2016, deforestation rates hit a new high, which will also impact emissions. In 2017, a drop in the speed of clear-cutting is expected, but it is unlikely to be substantial enough to compensate for the previous year’s rise. Thanks to limits placed on deforestation, Brazil already has lower emissions than it did in 2005, but reaching the NDC emissions target will require major efforts. Analysts have pointed out more action is needed on deforestation and that Brazil’s reforestation goals could be raised from 12 million hectares to 20 million Amazon deforestation has increased for two years in a row: by 24 percent in 2015 and by 28 percent in 2016. Brazilian NGOs have noted that the current administration, which has stronger ties to the rural caucus in Congress than the previous one, has taken or is taking a series of steps to roll back environmental regulations, a move that has been deemed “unprecedented.” Among those measures is a new law signed by President Michel Temer that grants amnesty to land grabbing done between 2004 and 2011—which the Attorney-General has said will stimulate deforestation—and a proposed bill to slash a large national forest in the Amazon by one-third.
  • Energy Use: Brazil’s NDC proposes to source 45 percent of the nation’s total energy mix from renewable resources by 2030, up from 41 percent in 2015. But more progress is needed to shift investments away from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, Brazil is still planning to build new coal plants and to ease environmental licensing, which would lead to more oil and gas production. The planned investments in fossil fuels would trump any mitigation gains from the increase of renewables in electricity.
  • Read the full issue brief on Brazil

The Road Ahead

Countries are taking action on climate change. But more needs to be done. As the UNEP Gap report shows, the current commitments from countries only get us part of the way to the global emissions targets. It’s up to all of us to encourage our governments to put forward more ambitious targets the next time around. Many decisions about how progress will be measured and how more ambitious commitments might look are being ironed out at the upcoming COP. For more details on what to watch at COP23, see this preview.

About the Authors

Han Chen

International Climate Advocate, International and Climate & Clean Air programs
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