- The Global Stocktake assesses the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which binds countries to take collective action and ensure global warming remains well below 2 degrees, and preferably below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Country delegates will discuss the technical findings from the synthesis report at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) and come up with an outcome document summarizing key political messages to motivate climate action.
- Key issues around equity in climate action and historical responsibilities in delivering support are likely to be debated by developed and developing country groups.
The synthesis report of the Global Stocktake – considered a “report card” of the Paris Agreement’s progress – has said collective action to address the effects of climate change is “not on track” and that emissions reductions were not at the scale required to meet the Agreement’s long-term goals.
The Global Stocktake (GST), released on September 8, is the first exercise of its kind to assess the implementation of the landmark Paris Agreement, which binds countries to take collective action and ensure global warming remains “well below” 2 degrees, and preferably below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Global warming has already reached 1.1 degrees Celsius, according to the latest sixth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Apart from providing an assessment of the Paris Agreement, the synthesis report, which is the outcome of a series of technical dialogues on the Global Stocktake, also informs Parties about the “potential areas for updating and enhancing their action and support, as well as for enhancing international cooperation for climate action,” it says.
Negotiations at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai later this year will directly be influenced by the GST. In a brief, the World Resources Institute explains that through the COP, country delegates will discuss the technical findings from the synthesis report and identify best practices going forward, concluding with an outcome document that includes “a summary of key political messages” on climate action.
“In their July letter, the COP28 Presidency signaled their vision for paradigm shifts they intend to deliver this year, specifying four areas: Fast-tracking the energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030, transforming climate finance by delivering on old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance, putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action, and mobilizing for the most inclusive COP ever,” said Hannah Roeyer, manager of the Independent Global Stocktake, a consortium of civil society actors working together to support the Global Stocktake and organised by ClimateWorks Foundation.
“The first three, in particular, are all areas that a strong GST response can deliver, and are identified as key dimensions for the climate transition in the recent GST report,” she added.
Though the GST is a review of progress and a guiding document for future action, experts say some of its key findings could spark debates between developing and developed countries at the COP28, over a number of issuessuch as the role of equity in climate action, the necessity to phase out all fossil fuels and whether past unmet promises should count towards tracking progress.
What is the global stocktake?
The Global Stocktake was created under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement to “assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of this Agreement and its long-term goals.” After the first one this year, the stocktaking process will happen every five years to hold Parties accountable to their pledges as well as encourage higher ambitions when pledges are “ratcheted” every five years.
Countries are expected to submit their revised climate pledges, or Nationally Determined Contributions, by 2025. “The GST is meant to formally reflect on progress toward achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals and then inform countries’ future climate action. This is why the Stocktake is timed to be available before the next round of NDCs is due,” said Roeyer.
Other reports have also sought to identify gaps in climate action. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said emissions need to be reduced by 43 percent from 2019 levels in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The annual emissions gap report released by the UNEP, which examines the gap between promised emissions reductions versus required emissions reductions to achieve the degree goal, found that this gap was of 23 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide or its equivalent.
Similarly, the UN’s synthesis report on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – each Party’s climate goals – found that even if all pledges are met, the world was on track to achieving between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees of warming by the end of the century.
The GST is different because it is much broader in scope, covering not only NDCs, but actions across mitigation (reduction of carbon emissions), adaptation (adapting to climate change), and the Paris Agreement’s implementation and financing. Over 1,000 submissions were made from Party and non-Party stakeholders for consideration in the GST report.
“The idea is that, at COP 28, countries come prepared with a response plan to the synthesis report in order to accelerate action. The gaps identified need a roadmap on which the countries can progress, and through which they can implement their plans,” said Subrata Chakrabarty, Associate Program Director with the Climate Program at WRI India.
Key findings and issues
The GST synthesis report presents 17 key findings. Some of the headlining claims are that global emissions are not aligned with modeled mitigation pathways consistent with the temperature goals and that achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century requires “systems transformations across all sectors and contexts.”
The GST report also highlights the importance of a just transition, which refers to the transition of the economy as it moves from being dominated by fossil fuels to being more renewable energy based, while ensuring no communities are left out in the process. “Just transitions can support more robust and equitable mitigation outcomes, with tailored approaches addressing different contexts,” says the report, which supports the needs of several developing countries dependent on fossil fuels, including India.
On adaptation, the report says that while there are more commitments and greater ambition to improve adaptation, efforts have been “fragmented, incremental, sector-specific and unequally distributed across regions.”
Countries have so far failed to formulate a Global Goal on Adaptation – a goal equivalent to the temperature goals – that motivates adaptive efforts at a global scale. The GST says that “when adaptation is informed and driven by local contexts…both the adequacy and the effectiveness of adaptation action and support are enhanced and this can also promote transformational adaptation,” referring to structural changes in socio-ecological systems.
On finance, the GST affirms that public finance remains “a prime enabler for action,” but that public finance alone “is not sufficient to address the gap between financing needs and current finance flows.” Developed countries have increasingly made calls for the inclusion of the private sector when it comes to climate finance. The GST says that climate resilient development may increasingly depend on private finance flows which could “create opportunities to unlock trillions of dollars and shift investments to climate action across scales.”
In a policy brief, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water said the GST outcome should “highlight effective market mechanisms and institutional frameworks” that can lead to the smooth delivery of finance, “so that the outcomes are relevant and usable for developing countries, especially India.”
Linking climate-resilient development with finance flows “entails creating opportunities to unlock trillions of dollars and shift investments to climate action across scales,” and that “significant finance flows continue towards and subsidizing investments in high-emissions activities.”
Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at the Climate Action Network, said some of the key findings in the GST could lead to disagreements at the COP28, particularly when it comes to the practical implications of some of its findings. “The GST report must be a political response to the science, and this is what it’s missing. The political response has to be putting equity at the center, saying who’s responsible, saying who has done enough or not, and who needs to play a bigger role in reducing their emissions domestically and providing finance. The GST doesn’t adequately highlight that these responsibilities and capabilities differ, and that a huge responsibility lies with rich countries who have not made provisions.”
The GST says global emissions need to peak by 2025 in order for the 1.5 degree goal to be within reach and notes that while most developed countries have peaked, global emissions haven’t, and that “All Parties need to undertake rapid and deep reductions in GHG emissions in the decades after peaking.”
“The implication is that developing countries must peak even though they have huge development deficits. Are we saying that developing countries should stop growing and not invest in development which is still carbon intensive? There’s not enough finance or technology coming from the Global North to support this either. We can’t talk about global peaking without equity. The GST does not unpack the kinds of implications this will have,” Singh said.
The issue of peaking global emissions by 2025 was particularly fraught at the COP27, with developed countries expressing strong disappointment that this goal found no mention in the Sharm el Sheikh Implementation Plan. Talks at COP27 also failed to mention the importance of phasing down all fossil fuels, instead agreeing to a phase down of unabated coal and phasing out of all fossil fuel subsidies.
The GST calls for a complete phase out of unabated fossil fuels, calling it an “indispensable element of just energy transitions to net zero emissions.”
Equity and ‘pre-2020 goals’ in the GST
Developed countries account for a majority of historical emissions that have led to today’s global warming. Before the Paris Agreement of 2015, efforts were made under other agreements in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce emissions, called the ‘pre-2020 goals,’ many of which were not met. For example, in 2009, developed countries promised to deliver $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries by 2020. This promise continues to be unmet.
In discussions leading up to the publication of the synthesis report, several developing countries insisted the GST take into account the ‘pre-2020’ goals as well in order to draw a fairer picture of progress on climate action so far. The Third World Network, an observer of discussions, reported that China and the G77 group of developing countries, including India, said the GST “must enable us to look backwards at implementation gaps and challenges, including those related to pre-2020” in order to sufficiently fulfil its mandate. This was reportedly opposed by the United States and other developed countries which said the GST was a stocktaking process under the Paris Agreement and not the UNFCCC.
That the GST synthesis report makes no mention of pre-2020 goals could be a sticking point during the COP28, as countries debate the final political messages of the GST. According to the CEEW’s brief, “If historic accountability is not addressed, future accountability and trust in the GST process will be compromised.”
“The GST is about progress, but also about building trust. There have been promises in the past that have not been met. Accounting for pre-2020 gaps hold developed countries collectively accountable and that’s important,” said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Fellow at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water who co-authored the GST policy brief. “It sends a message to developed countries that they cannot continue to dishonor their promises.”
Apart from highlighting equity and pre-2020 goals, the CEEW’s policy brief recommends the GST recognise the role of carbon markets in mitigation, underline policy direction and guidelines for a just transition, and endeavor to define climate finance — something climate talks have failed to do — while identifying sources, types of finance, and quantum of funds needed to reach net-zero emissions.
Banner image: Climate protesters hold up a banner at COP27. Photo by IISD/ENB.