The second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) from The Gambia includes greenhouse gas mitigating and sequestration opportunities which were adopted by stakeholders from The Gambia after a detailed metabolic analysis. It is currently the only country in the world, whose greenhouse gas mitigation commitment is consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.
The Gambia’s second NDC has been studied by Climate Action Tracker as part of its Global Update. Out of the 36 countries, plus the EU, which were analysed, The Gambia is the only country whose commitment is ’1.5°C compatible’. These 36 countries together are responsible for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Since then, The Gambia received recognition from international media for its commitment to avoiding dangerous climate change. Der Spiegel called The Gambia ‘Das einzig vorbildliche Land’.
The Global Update by Climate Action Tracker received broad media coverage, echoing the conclusion that only The Gambia is on track.
- The Guardian: ‘Of the 36 countries, plus the EU, ranked by the Climate Action Tracker only the Gambia has made commitments in line with the 1.5C Paris goal. Combined, these countries make up 80% of global emissions.’
- CNN: ‘Not a single G20 country is in line with the Paris Agreement on climate, analysis shows’
- Bloomberg: ‘Global Warming Set to Pass 1.5° C as Pollution Plans Fall Short’; ‘Gambia is only country with ambitious-enough policies: Report’
- Der Spiegel: ‘Das einzig vorbildliche Land ist das afrikanische Gambia’
- CBS News: ‘ “Nothing is moving”: Only one country in the world has submitted plans that will mitigate climate change by 2030, watchdog finds’
- Canada’s National Observer: ‘Gambia the world’s only country on track to meet its Paris agreement goals’
- Washington Informer: ‘(..) only Gambia, the small West African nation, has plans compatible with the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change.’
- Energy Live News: ‘World is failing to meet Paris Agreement target – except The Gambia’
- The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert (minute 2.39) in “Aging politicians and meat eaters stand in the way of America’s climate progress”
Circular GHG emission mitigation
50% of the greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration commitment in the second NDC, or 1.9 million out of 3.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (tCO2e) per year, were identified by Gambian stakeholders based on a detailed metabolic analysis. In the NDC, these circular economy commitments are marked ‘MA’. They mainly target a reduction in food losses, the deployment of community-based agroforestry systems, climate smart agriculture, improving livestock productivity and substituting and recycling HFCs. The Gambia even marked the expansion of forest cover and improving community resilience by expanding agroforestry systems as ‘unconditional’ upon international support.
The metabolic analysis provided the research and analysis that underpinned the updating and broadening of the scope of The Gambia’s NDC. Several organizations were involved in this effort. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) identified ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy and the transport sectors, while the NDC Partnership coordinated the different analytical efforts to support an update of the NDC. The metabolic analysis by Shifting Paradigms and its regional partners, commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), focused on other sectors, notably agriculture, forestry, fishing, industry, construction, public and commercial services.
The circular economy is the cornerstone of global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change. It is also an opportunity to complement existing Paris pledges and consider not only the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, but also the underlying causes and societal needs to which greenhouse gas emissions relate.
A UNDP report from 2017 pointed out that 67% of global GHG emissions are related to material management. This value was confirmed by the 2021 Global Circularity Gap Report which, with a far more detailed analysis, arrived at a 70% share of GHG emissions which is are ultimately generated through material handling and use.
The importance of international collaboration
For its Global Update, the Climate Action Tracker adopted a new methodology which considers that some countries need international support to reduce their emissions. The ‘fair share assessments’ previously considered it fair that some countries might continue emissions at high levels. With the remaining carbon budget in a 1.5°C scenario rapidly depleting, we can no longer afford ourselves that some countries remain on a high emissions pathway. In the September 2021 Global Update, the ‘fair share assessments’ consider that high-income countries need to support other countries with low-carbon development. For a country like The Gambia Climate Action Tracker disentangles “what part of the action should be done within the country or outside, with or without support from others”.
Next to this, the new methodology no longer looks only at emission targets, but also at the policies which countries have put in place to meet these targets.
In the foreword of the metabolic analysis, the Minister of Environment from The Gambia also pointed at the importance of international collaboration, in particular when taking a circular economy approach to GHG mitigation. He stated that “Effective climate change mitigation is only possible when countries cooperate and take responsibility along value chains, even if these value chains extend far beyond national borders”.
A metabolic analysis supporting low-carbon development
After Vanuatu, The Gambia is the second country in the world which commissioned a metabolic analysis to identify circular economy opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sinks. The metabolic analysis combined an analysis of material use and flows with an analysis of trends in the quality and quantity of natural assets or stocks. The analysis of stocks shed light on whether the extraction and disposal of materials have a positive or negative effect on the ability of the country’s natural assets to regenerate and serve future generations.
The material flows were analysed both in material tonnes and in their embodied GHG footprint in tonnes of CO2 equivalents (tCO2e). In the metabolic analysis, the flows and stocks of materials are considered a system. The objective was to identify GHG mitigation opportunities that extend beyond the climate mitigation commitments that The Gambia outlined in its first NDC, or Paris Pledge from November 2016.
The metabolic analysis was developed under UNDP’s Climate Promise, with generous funding from the governments of Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, the European Union, and UNDP’s other core contributors. It underpins UNDP’s contribution to the NDC Partnership’s Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP) initiative.
Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash