The impact of policy and model uncertainties on emissions projections of the Paris Agreement pledges

Tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement climate goal requires understanding the 2030 emission levels implied by countries' National Determined Contributions (NDCs). However, key uncertainties and assumptions impact greenhouse gas (GHG) emission projections implied by the NDCs. This study analyses this impact, both globally and for major emitting countries. We find that the assessed uncertainties markedly affect global GHG emission projections. Full achievement of NDC targets is estimated to result in a range of 46–60 GtCO2eq by 2030 (median estimate: 53 GtCO2eq).

The uncertainty in measuring historical emissions, including land-use, as reflected by different datasets is the most important contributing factor. This is followed by two equally important factors globally: socio-economic baseline uncertainty and uncertainty about the emissions implied by current policies in case NDCs are less ambitious than these.

Overall, the impact of policy uncertainty (i.e. uncertainty resulting from conditionality of or ranges in NDC targets and uncertainty in emissions resulting from current policies) is about equally important as model/technical uncertainty (i.e. uncertainty in historical emissions and socio-economic baseline variations).

This new insight is important for decision makers and researchers because a larger share of the total uncertainty is now attributable to aspects that can be influenced by policy decisions compared to previous analyses of NDC uncertainty.


PBL Authors
Michel den Elzen Ioannis Dafnomilis Andries Hof Arthur Beusen
Other authors
Marika Olsson
W J Wouter Botzen
Takeshi Kuramochi
Leonardo Nascimento
Joeri Rogelj


Publication title
The impact of policy and model uncertainties on emissions projections of the Paris Agreement pledges
Publication date
5 May 2023
Publication type
Publication language
Environmental Research Letters
18 (2023)
Product number