UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner (standing) speaking at the ministerial launch of the 1 Gigaton Coalition Report (Source: UNEP News Center).

By Yaping Cheng and Angel Hsu

The 1 Gigaton Coalition, which was initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, launched its inaugural report on December 7 at COP-21 in Paris. The Yale Data-driven Environmental Solutions Team was lead author of this report.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in developing countries are making great strides towards closing the gap in greenhouse gas emissions required to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Most of these efforts, however, have neither been measured nor reported. To address this gap, we teamed with The New Climate Institute, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to publish the inaugural 1 Gigaton Coalition report – an attempt to quantify the emissions mitigation impact from these developing country efforts and highlight the potential emissions savings if renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes and initiatives are supported further.

The 1 Gigaton Coalition is a voluntary international framework initiated and supported by the Norway, and is coordinated by UNEP. It aims to support countries to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions savings from renewable energy and energy efficiency activities and initiatives in the energy sector, most of which have not been quantified.


Globally, the energy sector is responsible for over two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. In developing countries alone, more than half have in place policy targets for both renewable energy and energy efficiency. Many of these efforts are taking place in collaboration with bilateral country donors, such as the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID), and multilateral banks, such as the World Bank. Other activities are part of larger global efforts, such as REEEP and SE4ALL, which aims to increase sustainable energy access in developing countries.

Despite all of these programs, there has been little measurement of mitigation impact. Are bilateral, multilateral and partner-supported renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts contributing to measurable greenhouse gas emission reductions in developing countries? Many initiatives lack consistent and transparent measurement and accounting that connect financing to emission reductions. Further muddying the picture are differences between how organizations quantify impact.

Major Findings

We researched over 5,000 energy related projects, and identified 42 bilaterally-supported renewable energy and energy efficiency projects with quantifiable data. We estimated these projects save a total of 11.4 TWh and reduce CO2 emissions by 6 MtCO2 annually in 2020.

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The amount of public and private assistance to developing countries over the last two years (2013 – 2014) has increased, and currently averages around US $57 billion per year (Source: OECD, 2015).

Seven 1 Gigaton Coalition partners contributed $2,556 million to support the 42 projects that span 27 developing countries and regions. Given that a sum of $730 billion was invested in renewable power and fuels in developing countries during 2004-2014, the financial assistance to the 42 projects represent less than one percent of all RE and EE projects implemented during 2004-2014. Scaling up the global total mitigation potential of these projects based on the total investment could be 1.7 GtCO2 in the year 2020.

Borge Brende, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said, “This first report of the 1 Gigaton Coalition is an important step towards quantifying emissions savings from the energy sector. It shows governments and initiatives what could be achieved and encourages them to build on the momentum of the Paris COP to continue to increase their ambitions to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Next Steps

Our report establishes a foundation of available information to measure and report greenhouse gas emission savings resulting from renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, and sheds lights on how to improve the transparency and effectiveness of climate finance. But there is still more work to be done.

Mainly, we encountered a general lack of project details and quantifiable information. The availability of data varies from project to project; the time frame for some projects is incomplete; the indicators of qualitatively measured projects are not solely geared towards climate change; and the methodologies adopted for quantitatively measured projects are often opaque.

The challenge in climate finance project tracking and measurement is also one of the major obstacles that the $100 billion global climate financing pledge faces. As NewClimate Institute noted, “the provision of (financial) support – how much, by whom, and for what – has been one of the main bones of contention in the negotiations for a global climate deal”. Without clear frameworks for tracking and measuring contributions of climate finance, it is difficult to understand the effectiveness of partner-supported activities in the developing countries where investments matter most to global climate mitigation. The improvement of data collection and methodology will enable both developing and developed countries to quantify their achievements, and motivate them to cooperate on climate mitigation and adaptation activities when tangible impact can be seen.

Research Fellow Yaping Cheng (second from left) from the Yale Data-driven Environmental Solutions Team presents the results of the inaugural 1 Gigaton Coalition Report in Paris on Dec. 7, 2015.