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Fifteen countries boost climate targets ahead of COP26

SEI supported countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to boost their climate commitments – and show how cutting emissions can have a range of other benefits, especially for health.

Lagos, Nigeria. By 2030, 30 000 deaths from air pollution can be saved if Nigeria’s new climate commitments – which SEI helped to shape – are met. Photo: peeterv / iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Date published
2 December 2022
A story from

This impact story is from our 2021 annual report .

SEI supported countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to boost their climate commitments – and show how cutting emissions can have a range of other benefits, especially for health. This in turn can drive future efforts to cut greenhouse gases.

Research clearly shows the gap between countries’ existing pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the reductions necessary to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C. It is vital that all countries set their sights higher. By cutting emissions, countries can reap a range of other benefits, especially health benefits from reduced pollution, as well as contributing to development targets. Many countries are determined to do so – but how?

As part of SEI’s work with with partners including the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, NDC Partnership and the UNDP, SEI supported 15 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America (see sidebar) to update and strengthen their climate change commitments ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

Higher ambition, broader scope

In each country, SEI collaborated with local stakeholders from Ministries of Environment and academia, and with local consultants, to evaluate the impact of different policies and measures on greenhouse gas reductions. Collaboration with local experts ensured access to relevant data and more importantly, that the analysis was nationally owned: that those required to approve the climate commitments agreed with and accepted the results.

The results of this work fed into robust science-based targets that have been included in these countries’ updated NDCs submitted at COP26 in Glasgow. For example, Zimbabwe’s NDC, submitted in 2021, commits to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, compared to a 33% reduction from only the energy sector.

Many countries also had a clear ambition to expand the scope of their climate change commitments to include all greenhouse gas emitting sectors. SEI worked to identify and collect the necessary data to reflect sectors that were not covered in previous commitments and to identify the most appropriate measures to achieve reductions in those sectors. As a result, the NDC update for Zimbabwe, for example, includes all sectors rather than just energy.

Other countries also broadened the scope of their NDCs. Nigeria’s update extends emission reductions to the waste sector and in Mali, Togo and Benin, hydrofluorocarbons are now included in the greenhouse gases that are covered in the emission reduction targets.

First-ever measure of health benefits of national climate commitments

SEI also supported the inclusion of the first-ever quantified statement in an NDC of local health benefits that could be achieved by meeting climate change mitigation targets.

In Nigeria, 30 000 premature deaths could be prevented by 2030 from the implementation of its updated NDC, the large majority of which are infant deaths from respiratory infections. Globally, by 2030, hundreds of thousands of premature deaths per year can be prevented because of improved air quality indoors and outdoors achieved alongside greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Contribution to national development plans

Alongside air pollution health benefits, SEI’s efforts have led to countries aligning climate commitments with national development plans. In the case of Zimbabwe, its NDC was expanded to include all sectors, meaning that the potential for mitigation in the forestry sector was reflected in the greenhouse gas assessment and updated NDC.

Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy 1 (2021–2025) includes actions in forestry to tackle deforestation, land degradation and forest fires. Because these measures were included in the mitigation assessment co-developed with SEI, it was demonstrated that they have among the largest potential for reducing emissions of all the measures considered and were therefore crucial for increasing ambition in Zimbabwe’s climate commitments.

"Unlike the first NDC, which covered only the energy sector, this NDC makes progress towards an economy-wide NDC as it includes the waste, industrial processes and product use and the agriculture, forestry and other land-use sectors."
– N.M. Ndhlovu, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Zimbabwe

Looking ahead

These collaborative efforts on target setting are paving the way for SEI to build long-term partnerships with countries as they move to the delivery and monitoring phase to help ensure that the greenhouse gas reductions and development benefits are both realized.

A greater understanding of the multiple benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions – especially for health – can help to drive more ambitious NDCs in the future and could speed up action on existing commitments.

Because the mitigation assessments cover more sectors, not only can mitigation targets aim higher, but the range of sectors that can access finance to implement mitigation projects is expanded, driving further action.

Strategy in action

Priority for change

Government plans for low carbon pathways with multiple benefits

SEI supported national climate experts in 15 countries to raise climate ambition and in doing so realize other social and economic co-benefits. SEI worked with Bangladesh, Benin, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, Eswatini, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Mongolia, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe, in partnership with the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) project Supporting National Action and Planning (SNAP), the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Climate Promise and the NDC Partnership's Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP).

Type of outcome

Improving decisions

A key focus of SEI's Integrated Climate and Development Planning Initiative work to enhance countries' climate commitments has been to integrate sustainable development benefits into updated NDCs so that national stakeholders can understand how aiming higher on climate change mitigation can have a range of local benefits.

Delivering on our priorities