Pledge pathways

Reference pathways

The reference pathways (often also referred to as business-as-usual or BAU) provide information on how emissions are likely to develop in the absence of climate policy. This information is often provided as a range, reflecting uncertainties related to future economic and technological developments.

We provide reference pathways only for developing countries (and according to data availability). Where pledges are expressed as a reduction below a reference scenario, we use the officially communicated reference scenario for the pledge, where available.

For developing countries, we determine the best data sources for projections on a case-by-case basis. We prioritise the use of nationally reported data (e.g. National Communications to the UNFCCC or governmental data). However, if data resolution from these sources is too low, data quality judged too poor, or the data is out-dated, alternative state-of-the-art sources are preferred. In each case, detailed data source information is provided on the country pages.

2020 pledges and Paris Agreement targets

Pledge levels in 2020 are the result of Copenhagen pledges (unconditional and conditional pledges).

For those Annex I countries who are Party to the Second Commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, these levels (depicted by dots in the country graphs) serve as the basis for elaboration of the country’s Quantified Emission Limitation or Reduction Objective (QELRO) which denotes the average level of emissions that an Annex I Party is allowed to emit on an annual basis during a given commitment period.

Paris Agreement targets (depicted by squares) reflect the absolute emissions levels resulting from countries announced contributions for the years 2025 and 2030.

The effort-sharing bar allows for the evaluation of their level of adequacy.

Pledge pathway

We constructed pathways representing the expected development under the pledges using the present emissions reduction commitments and available clarifications coming forward from governments.

Developing countries (not in Annex I of the convention)

For developing countries, we applied their stated pledges to the best available data in each case. The pledge pathway often consists of a direct reduction from current emissions to the stated goals in 2020. If pledge pathways (or pledge pathway ranges) are officially reported by governments (e.g. in the case of South Africa), the official pledge pathway is considered (as opposed to an interpolation between current emissions levels and pledge level is performed).

Developed countries (in Annex I of the convention)

The methodology for Annex I Parties is based on the present Kyoto Protocol structure. The target pathway for emissions excluding LULUCF is calculated using unconditional commitments where applicable, and otherwise, Parties' least ambitious commitments.

For developed countries, these pledge pathways are built as such:

  • pre-2020 period: these are calculated using the Quantified Emission Limitation or Reduction Objectives (QELROs) put forward by governments where available. These denote the average level of emissions that an Annex I Party can emit on an annual basis during a given commitment period. – in cumulative terms this is the actual amount of emissions a country is allowed to emit over the whole first and second commitment period. When a QELRO is not available (e.g. in the case of governments that have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol) these targets are calculated as reductions relative to 1990 (or another base year used for the pledge). A pathway is then obtained by linear interpolation between last historical year and those levels.
  • Post-2020 period: starting from levels in 2020, a pathway is drawn by linear interpolation intersecting post-2020 contributions (where available) up to long-term target level (where available).

The pledge pathways for Annex I Parties that have quantified emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol include the quantification of Kyoto Protocol rules (for further information, see below). Because the application of these rules often results in weaker reduction of emissions, pathways excluding (Raw pledge pathway) and including these rules (Pledge pathway) are shown in a developed country graph.

Kyoto accounting rules

The pledge pathways for Annex I Parties that have quantified emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol include quantification of Kyoto Protocol rules. At present, these rules include:

1) Accounting for sources and sinks from LULUCF activities

2) Base year emissions according to Article 3.7

3) Limit of assigned amount units in CP2 according to Article 3.7ter


The pathways calculated for developed countries shown on the Climate Action Tracker include LULUCF accounting for 2008-2020. Under the rules of the Kyoto Protocol, credits or debits can be generated from activities in the LULUCF sector. Because the LULUCF sector is a net sink for many Annex I countries, accounting credits will be generated from these activities. These credits can be used to offset Annex A emissions covered by the Kyoto commitment, resulting in weaker reduction of emissions from, e.g. the energy and industrial sectors.

For the Climate Action Tracker, we estimate the impacts of these rules by projecting the LULUCF emissions for each Annex I Party and calculating the resulting credits or debits that they would obtain according to Kyoto Protocol rules. The pledge pathways are then adjusted to show the Annex A emissions after LULUCF accounting is taken into consideration.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, emissions and sinks from the LULUCF sector are accounted for in five different categories: Deforestation, Afforestation and Reforestation, Forest Management, Cropland Management, Grassland Management. For many Annex I countries, Forest Management provides the largest sink, and generally has the highest impact on total net emissions. However, the size of the LULUCF sector, and the relative importance of each sector varies by country. For further details on how LULUCF accounting is applied in the Climate Action Tracker, contact us.

2) Article 3.7

This article permits those countries with a source in their LULUCF sector in 1990 to include the deforestation emissions (land use change) that year in their base year emissions for calculating their QELRO or, as termed here, their Kyoto target. This applies for Australia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

3) Article 3.7ter

The Doha decisions on AAU surplus are applied to the Annex I pathways. The Doha decisions include a limit on the average emission allowances for each country during the second commitment period of the 2008-2010 average emissions (Article 3.7 ter, Kyoto Protocol), and a restriction on the trading and use of surplus units. We therefore adjust the pledge pathways for all Annex I countries with pledges to ensure that their pledge during CP2 does not exceed their average emissions during 2008-2010.

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