The “bottom up” formulation of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement is an opportunity for countries to promote synergies between climate action and other development priorities.

Examining seven small island developing states (SIDS), the authors compare the priorities described in their Nationally Determined Constributions (NDCs) with those in their national development plans. They find that most NDC actions relate generally to themes in the respective national development plan, but the range of sectors they include as climate priorities is narrow and does not reflect the spread of national development agendas. Those sectors most emphasized by SIDS’ development plans – governance and institutions, economic management, education, health, transport and land use planning – tend not to be included in NDCs at all. This is surprising for adaptation priorities, given the necessity of addressing not only climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, water and coastal zone management but of also tackling the contextual conditions that make communities vulnerable in the first place.

The authors suggest these patterns may be the result of normative and/or material biases that shape thinking about which sectors are climate-relevant. This is limiting the positive reinforcement that NDCs might otherwise give to development agendas, and is a missed opportunity for policy coherence and greater resilience building.

Finally, the authors point out that broadening the way adaptation priorities are identified would be likely to create stronger synergies between the NDCs and national development plans, and would also improve climate resilience outcomes.