Guest Post: Stepping Up Climate Action Represents a Clear Win for the Environment, People and the Economy

By Annaka Peterson

Building a green economy and investing in climate action has been on the agenda of the Government of Mongolia for some time, and it is an increasingly important part of the national development agenda. It goes without saying that there are many challenges to building a green economy in Mongolia, but there are also some big opportunities. There is plenty to discuss and debate on this topic, so let’s start with Mongolia’s NDC.

What is Mongolia’s NDC you ask? Let’s start with some basics about what NDCs are in the first place.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), are country level commitments to address climate change issues under the Paris [Climate Change] Agreement. As part of the Paris Agreement, all countries agreed to work together to: limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to try to limit warming to 1.5°C; increase the ability of countries to deal with the inevitable impacts of climate change; and, make all financial flows consistent with a low GHG emissions, climate resilient pathway. Countries put forward their national targets to contribute to this global effort in nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs have to be updated and submitted to the UNFCCC every five years to take stock of progress to date and increase efforts to achieve the long term objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Mongolia’s updated NDC – what do all the numbers mean?

In November 2019, the Government of Mongolia approved its updated NDC. The NDC commits to a 22.7% reduction in total national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, compared to the projected emissions under a business as usual (BAU) scenario. To achieve this a number of actions across key sectors are planned including: increasing energy production from renewable energy sources and improved efficiency of energy production; energy efficiency and saving measures in transport, construction and industrial sectors; reduced headcount of livestock and improved livestock manure management in the agriculture sector; and other measures to better manage waste and industrial processes.

In addition to the 22.7% unconditional GHG emissions reduction target the NDC also identifies additional mitigation goals. These additional mitigation goals include a conditional target of 27.2% reduction in total GHG emissions if carbon capture and storage and waste-to-energy technologies are implemented with international support. Additionally, if further actions to remove GHG emissions through forests and land use are considered, the emissions reductions would increase further to 44.9% by 2030. Forest and land use related emissions and removals of GHG emissions or sinks (LULUCF) are treated as a special category and thus not included in the main unconditional target of 22.7%.

If that wasn’t confusing enough Mongolia’s NDC also includes eight broad adaptation goals and needs for financial support, technology transfer and capacity building.

In the last 80 years, the mean temperature in Mongolia has increased by 2.25°C, more than double the global average temperature increase. Making Mongolia one of the regions exposed to intensive global warming. According to analysis of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, these climate changes have resulted in declines in rainfall, chronic drought and increased exposure to secondary impacts such as dust storms. The intensity of climate-related hazards like heat waves, drought, and floods are expected to increase putting pressure on Mongolia’s ecosystems and agriculture production and increasing the disaster risks faced by communities. Mongolia is currently developing its National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to strengthen its efforts to reduce climate risks and support efforts to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Challenges and Opportunities for Climate Action

The two biggest sources of GHG emissions in Mongolia come from the energy and agriculture sectors – coal and livestock, both central to the economy and daily life. Almost 67% of the emissions reductions pledged for 2030 are expected to come from the energy sector, but meeting the 30% renewable energy (RE) target (installed capacity) looks challenging. While there are plans to scale up new RE, there are also plans to further increase coal capacity to meet growing demand for power and heat. There has been some progress increasing RE and important policies and regulations have been put in place, however the fundamental conditions still favor conventional energy. Low, subsidized energy tariffs, high curtailment risk, limited system capacities to manage variable renewable energy resources and the lack of a clear long-term investment signal to the market are all barriers to scaled up investment in clean energy.

While enacting policies today to cut GHG emissions and build resilience in the future is a difficult choice for most policy makers, the longer we wait to address climate change the bigger problem it becomes and there are immediate co-benefits to be gained from climate action. Achieving the NDC would not only help to address climate change, but also have other benefits for Mongolia. Reducing key air pollutants by as much as 40% and generating 59,000 more jobs per year on average in the energy sector alone. With air pollution costing an estimated 5.6% of GDP in 2019 and the need to boost job creation during this pandemic recovery phase, investing in climate action is a clear win.

About Annaka

Annaka Peterson currently lives in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She is the Country Representative for the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and has spent the last 15 years working on climate change issues at local, national and global levels. Annaka studied in the Masters of Asia Pacific Policy Studies (MAPPS) Program at the University of British Columbia and received her BA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Annaka is passionate about making our economies better for people and the environment.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots and tweets @jdierkes
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