Countries that signed the Paris Agreement on climate change must update their nationally determined contribution (NDC) every five years, reflecting increasing ambition. These national climate plans are the basis for the international climate regime under the Paris Agreement. The first NDCs, submitted in 2016, lacked the ambition required by the Paris goals. Many countries missed the 2020 deadline for new or updated NDCs showing greater drive, but are expected to submit these before COP26.
We argue that countries preparing an NDC should consider guidance (agreed as part of the Paris Agreement ‘rulebook’) which will support clarity, transparency and understanding; inclusion of adaptation communications; and meeting the rules of the Enhanced Transparency Framework. Taken together, the guidance can foster structural consistency across NDCs, which will further enhance climate change aims. Examples from Malawi’s NDC revision process illustrate consideration of the guidance in action.