Step-by-Step Guidance Framework

A canvas for aligning NDCs with green recovery

About this guide

The objective of this guide is to present a step-by-step framework to support countries to design and assess green recovery and green economy options that build on NDC processes and incorporate climate action

The following framework aims to:

  • help practitioners use existing tools to align NDC measures and climate policies with COVID-19 recovery plans and measures and to streamline financing for key programs;
  • help formulate processes to develop sustainable recovery plans by guiding the selection of NDC and other climate measures based on their economic, environmental, and social dimensions; and,
  • provide practical implementation guidance by addressing political engagement, financial feasibility and monitoring of green recovery plans.

The framework is organized as follows: definitions of the main concepts are presented first, followed by step-by-step guidance with references to key tools that can help countries align NDC and recovery packages.

By proposing a process that guides countries in formulating sustainable recovery plans, the framework takes a step beyond developing an inventory of relevant tools for aligning NDC measures and climate policies with COVID-19 recovery plans and measures. Indeed, it offers recommendations as to when and how these tools could be used, identifies gaps, and proposes additional tools and methodologies to address them.


Timing is key when applying the framework, whose purpose is to enable inclusion of climate-aligned actions in country recovery packages. Timeliness also implies anticipating legislative and administrative obstacles that could decrease the recovery measures’ effectiveness. It is thus useful to distinguish among the temporal phases: immediate response, recovery and post-pandemic. Although countries are starting to move beyond their emergency response to COVID-19, the pace of this movement varies based on the level of COVID-19 infections. And with the possibility of new variants, the timescale for achieving a green recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic cannot be known with confidence.

Together with already limited resources, countries tend to choose recovery measures with lower capital costs, short lead times, or large immediate employment benefits that undermine long-term sustainable development. This makes it more difficult for them to reach long-term transition objectives by locking in technologies and infrastructure that do not help countries on a trajectory towards net zero emissions by 2050 or through five-year NDC cycles. The unprecedented speed at which recovery plans are being designed also risks leaving behind vulnerable populations. This again underscores the unique value of NDCs and long-term strategies (LTS) in providing guidance for the long term. The decisions taken now will have implications for decades to come. The urgent focus on short-term needs should not lead us to overlook opportunities to achieve long-term goals.

Main concepts

Green stimulus and green recovery

Green stimulus and green recovery can be defined in several ways. However, all definitions describe processes that seek to restore economic activities while also favouring the “greening” of production and consumption processes. Both concepts thus refer to packages of environmental, regulatory and fiscal reforms that can help to restore prosperity after the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance defines green recovery as “A holistic and inclusive response to the COVID-19 crisis that mainstreams climate change considerations into short-term economic recovery and promotes climate-neutral and climate-resilient economic transformation aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” This definition assumes a common understanding of what the suggested economic transformation means in different countries. Each country must explore this on its own.

Nationally determined contributions (NDC)

The NDCs that countries submitted under the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) represent climate action pledges that seek to limit global warming to well below 2°C - preferably to 1.5 °C - over pre-industrial levels.

NDCs articulate how a country will contribute to the Paris Agreement’s global goals, including climate-related targets, policies and measures that governments will implement in response to climate change and to contribute to global climate action.

NDCs (and their related program and strategy documents) constitute a basket of measures that could be accelerated and strengthened by recovery plans. Countries report on their national greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and adaptation efforts through their national communications (NCs) and biennial update reports (BURs). NCs provide information on GHG inventories, measures to mitigate and facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change, and any other information that a Party considers relevant to achieving the Convention’s objective. BURs provide an update of the information presented in NCs, particularly regarding national GHG inventories, mitigation actions, constraints and gaps, including support needed and received.

The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process enables Parties to formulate and implement NAPs as a way to identify medium- and long-term adaptation needs and to develop and implement strategies and programmes to address them. It is a continuous, progressive and iterative process that follows a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach.


Tools referred to in this guidance note support countries in designing and assessing green recovery and green economy options that build on NDC processes and incorporate climate action using specific methodologies. The support might relate directly to the mitigation and/or adaptation objectives of national climate strategies and NDCs or in pursuit of other goals - including those related to the green economy, circular economy or biodiversity - that are indirectly aligned with previous climate strategies (actions or measures supported by green or circular economy objectives that have climate benefits).

Reference may also be made to other tools that support countries in applying this framework, such as documents (reports, briefs or notes), websites and techniques (econometric models or indicator tables), learning and e-learning materials, financing facilities and discussion groups. Readers should familiarize themselves with the background documents to these tools as they could be important for highlighting opportunities and needs and mobilizing decision-makers.



Understanding the context and country needs

Countries should identify how the COVID-19 crisis has affected the national economy, including its economic, environmental and social dimensions. This step should also help to define the actions that will be required to achieve a green recovery and how NDCs can contribute to this objective.

View step 1


Aligning climate-COVID-19 recovery

This step enables countries to review/screen their short-term responses and long-term recovery plans to identify inconsistencies with and opportunities to advance NDC targets, decarbonization and resilience goals.

View step 2


Securing societal and political support

This step aims to ensure participatory approaches to recovery planning that integrate, into recovery packages, the just transition principle, whole-of-society approaches, gender equality and women’s leadership drawn from NDC planning and implementation.

View step 3


Financing and implementing

The objective of this fourth step is to ensure that enabling conditions are met so that the identified actions can be implemented in sustained fashion.

View step 4


Monitoring and evaluation

The objective of this final step is to create a coherent monitoring system. Existing green recovery monitoring tools provide an interesting basis for identifying indicators through data points that can allow comparison of content and performance among recovery plans from different regions and countries.

View step 5

For more information about this guidance framework, please refer to the publication "Aligning NDCs with Green Recovery".

Resource library

  • All
  • Step I: Understanding context and needs
  • Step II: Aligning climate-COVID-19 recovery
  • Step III: Securing societal and political support
  • Step IV: Financing and implementing
  • Step V: Monitoring and Evaluation