Under the Paris Agreement, Parties have agreed to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. Mid-century, long-term low-GHG emission development strategies ("long-term strategies") underpin the transformative potential of the Paris Agreement. By catalyzing a process by which decision-makers across key sectors of the economy re-think policy, development, and technology pathways, long-term strategies offer the opportunity to facilitate the alignment of national action with the Paris goals.

Parties were invited to put forward long-term strategies under the Paris Agreement by 2020. To date, seven countries have officially communicated long-term strategies to UN Climate Change—Benin, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Mexico and the United States. And many other countries are in the midst of designing them.

WRI and UNDP, working with UN Climate Change, have just launched a set of resources that all countries can use to inform the development of long-term strategies. These resources capture key insights from almost 40 experts – including Patricia Espinosa, Nicholas Stern and Laurence Tubiana – on topics ranging from adaptation to modeling to finance to ensuring a just transition.

Below we highlight some key findings on three critical questions related to long-term strategies:

Why Pursue Long-term Strategies?

Today's decisions will shape what the world will look like for decades to come. Our ability to limit dangerous climate change and achieve development goals will be determined by whether we can fundamentally change the way we frame problems and make decisions, moving from a short-sighted and reactive approach to a strategic and transformational approach guided by a shared vision.

A long-term strategy embraces a ' 2050 is now' mindset and helps to avoid the dangers of short-term thinking, which may take decades to reverse, incur heavy costs, lock out development opportunities and increase the reliance upon risky, unproven technologies. Long-term strategies steer decisions in a way that catalyzes a low-carbon future while also ensuring food, water and energy security for generations to come.

Without a long-term vision, there is a risk of making decisions that only prioritize near-term gains, which may lock out long-term development opportunities and end up perpetuating poverty. A country may have an ambitious short-term commitment through its nationally determined contribution (NDC), but without a long-term strategy, it may not be adequately preparing for the necessary long-term transitions.

Establishing a long-term strategy can provide several additional important domestic benefits. For example, a long-term strategy can identify the real economic benefits from investing in long-term climate action. It can also provide political certainty for bold and concrete action by all actors. Importantly, if designed well and coupled with the right resources and initiatives, the long-term strategy can also support a just transition, by sending early and predictable signals to businesses that are tied to a high-carbon economy.

What Are the Key Elements of Long-term Strategies?

The scope and depth of long-term strategies will be determined by countries. Accordingly, there is no one-size-fits-all format or structure for a long-term strategy. However, some key elements of a long-term strategy include:

  • a long-term vision;
  • sustainable development considerations;
  • mitigation elements (including a long-term quantified outcome for GHG emissions reductions and results of mitigation models and scenarios);
  • adaptation elements;
  • sectoral strategies (including policies and actions, milestones to be achieved over time, information on managing the transition to the long-term goals, among others);
  • implementation approaches;
  • and monitoring plans and revisions processes.

When these elements are considered together, countries can evaluate tradeoffs among them and ensure that all are supported in the long-term strategy.

What Are Key Considerations for the Development of a Long-term Strategy?

First, the concept of long term planning for climate change and development raises unique governance challenges. Ensuring buy-in and ownership of key ministries, departments, and agencies and non-governmental stakeholders over the final strategy is essential if long-term strategies are to be influential in guiding short, medium, and long-term planning and investment decisions across society to initiate an effective and just transition to a low greenhouse gas emission and resilient pathway. This will require:

  • Political leadership : Clear high-level mandates and vision can foster greater coordination within and across ministries. Political leadership at the highest level can help drive the strategy, build momentum and get the right stakeholders and ministries involved.
  • Institutional arrangements: The process of developing, and subsequently implementing, long-term strategies requires the engagement of central ministries, multiple sectoral line ministries, sub-national government, civil society, and in many countries indigenous self-governing bodies. In many cases, this will require the creation or reconsideration of existing institutional arrangements for long-term planning.
  • Legal frameworks: Supportive legal frameworks ensure strong coherence across government strategy and policies – to avoid expensive and conflicting policies.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Stakeholders can help planners and decision-makers by providing information and preferences that can build a shared vision and may become important constituencies in the implementation of the long-term strategy.

In addition to governance considerations, resources and some degree of capacity may be required to undertake the development of a long-term strategy; whether in terms of GHG inventory data needs, assessments to identify climate change drivers and impacts, existing policies or private sector and civil society engagement, which will undoubtedly vary and be determined from country to country.

Another consideration is the need to build upon existing plans and policies. This will require a consideration of how well established existing long-term planning and targets are (for example, any long-term economic planning processes that might already exist in a country), whether or not they already consider climate change mitigation and adaptation, and whether or not they are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

We hope that our project resources will serve as helpful inputs as countries prepare long-term strategies. In the coming months, we will be publishing additional expert perspectives, as well as case studies and research papers to gather lessons on factors contributing to the success or failure of prior long-term planning exercises and to grow the body of knowledge on the design of future mid-century strategies.

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