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Long-term Deep Decarbonization Pathways, as developed under the Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project (DDPP) are an essential tool for climate policy and the design of shorter-term climate strategies, such as the Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs). Without such pathways it is impossible to know whether a country is moving towards deep decarbonization by 2050 to around 1.7tCO2 per capita in energy-related emissions or whether it is heading towards a “dead-end” from which it will be difficult to reduce emissions further after 2030.

In addition to providing a framework for ensuring that short-term action is consistent with long-term emission reduction objectives, Deep Decarbonization Pathways (i) build a shared understanding of the three pillars of deep decarbonization (energy efficiency, low-carbon electricity generation, electrification of end uses and switch to low-carbon fuels); (ii) identify improvements in energy technologies needed to achieve deep decarbonization; (iii) identify investment needs and financing strategies; (iv) provide a shared framework for cumulative problem solving in each country; and (v) ensure transparency, build trust, and promote shared problem solving among countries.

We propose four preliminary tests that INDCs need to meet in order to be consistent with 2°C in addition to reductions in headline emissions, as considered by the UNEP Gap Report 2015. First, every INDC must be based on a long-term pathway for deep decarbonization aiming to reduce net emissions to zero by 2070. Second, strategies need to fully address the three pillars of deep decarbonization with the DDPP reports providing valuable insights on technology benchmarks. Third, INDCs must include a strategy for accelerating the development and diffusion of low-emission energy technologies. And finally, national processes of developing and revising INDCs have to be consistent with long-term deep decarbonization. An international climate agreement consistent with 2°C should invite every country to prepare and make available a Deep Decarbonization Pathway by 2018 at the latest.