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Will the global stocktake end up being pointless?

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By John Leo Algo

· 5 min read

COP28 is shaping up to be one of the most pivotal climate negotiations since 2015, which saw the adoption of the Paris Agreement. One of the primary themes at focus is the conclusion of the Global Stocktake (GST), a mechanism for monitoring the collective progress in worldwide climate action. 

Negotiators in Dubai will attempt to produce politically-relevant outcomes to scale up solutions, based on the findings of the technical assessment of the GST. This report showed that while there has been progress in turning the words of the Paris Agreement into concrete actions, there remain significant gaps in the different modes of addressing the climate crisis, including adaptation, mitigation, and finance.

Stating the obvious

At first glance, the findings of the technical report are nothing groundbreaking; it is likely that global policymakers are well-aware for years of the true state of the climate crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, which would make it more difficult to limit global warming to at most 1.5 degrees Celsius. Adaptation efforts remain fragmented instead of cohesive, incremental over transformational, and unequally distributed across localities. The mobilization of private sector finance has not been as effective, hindering the pursuit of climate-resilient development.

The impacts of insufficient actions have resulted in realities that the most vulnerable communities have not just known, but endured for a long time. These are covered by the calls that the global climate movement has been consistently well before the GST process commenced. From these perspectives, it may be said that this part of the stocktaking is a mere formality that produced no groundbreaking outputs and would not prevent even more catastrophic effects.

There is significant skepticism on whether the GST would live up to its intended goal of enhancing climate action. After all, many of the same issues that emerged from previous decades of negotiations are still unresolved today. For instance, it took three decades of negotiations before an agreement on funding arrangements against loss and damage was reached last year in Sharm El Sheikh, a time span that is longer than the age of around half of the world’s current population.

Yet there is still an opportunity for the GST to be a catalyst for addressing many of the longstanding issues associated with the climate crisis.

Small windows

The findings of the GST, as a process agreed upon by Parties within the UNFCCC, still hold tremendous weight among governments and businesses. This is evidenced by over 1000 submissions from Party and non-party stakeholders, including civil society organizations (CSOs) and community representatives, considered in the technical assessment report.

For businesses, aligning their strategies and practices with the outcomes associated with globally-recognized standards and established norms, including under the UN, will boost their opportunities for more investments and other modes of financing from various stakeholders. It will also lead to reducing reputational risks and potential losses associated with stranded assets, especially in continuing support of fossil fuels as reflected in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report.

The involvement of the private sector is also critical to unlocking trillions of dollars of financing that is needed to meet the growing needs and concerns of vulnerable countries on adaptation and mitigation. With changing circumstances comes the need for innovations and shifting investments; this does not just apply to the financial sector, but also to policymakers and other stakeholders. 

While the pace of climate action remains far behind the rate of climate change itself, there is progress nonetheless that must be built on in an accelerated fashion, beginning at COP28. There is an evident growing awareness about the climate crisis, its impacts, and solutions across the different sectors, from businesses to the most vulnerable communities. Policies, programs, and projects on adaptation and mitigation are increasingly becoming more prevalent at the national and regional levels.

There is no denying what must be accomplished in the Dubai climate talks: more ambitious mitigation and finance targets, just energy transition to renewables, coupled with fossil fuel phaseout, plans for transformational adaptation, loss and damage funding arrangements, climate-resilient food systems, among many others. 

The challenges are: for one, to ensure that the language to be reflected in the eventual decision text will instigate an overarching global plan aligned with the 1.5-degree goal; and for two, to implement this plan through national commitments and actions that are fair, inclusive, and just, with mechanisms for ensuring transparency and upholding accountability of implementing stakeholders. World leaders have fallen short on both fronts, but there is still time for a course correction.

Still time left

As comprehensive as the GST has been, it must also be acknowledged that there are many good practices and impactful initiatives, especially by civil society and community-based groups, that are not reported in this process or in other forms of climate-related stocktaking. While these actions may not be as publicly known as they should be, their contributions to reducing vulnerabilities, lowering emissions, and steering their countries and communities toward the right kind of development are still being felt, one way or another.

As much as governments and businesses are expected to lead in implementing large-scale solutions, the contributions of CSOs, communities, and the rest of the global climate movement must never be ignored or forgotten. At the Dubai summit and beyond, they will play an even more pivotal role in pressuring these sectors to get their acts together and do what is needed to address the climate crisis.

No one expects the negotiations at COP28 to be all smooth sailing. Many might feel that just like many initiatives before, the GST may end up being pointless, in the sense that global climate action will not be enhanced. Yet the alternative brings about much worse consequences for the entire world. 

The goals remain the same. The issues remain the same. But the outcomes of the talks do not have to be this time. The GST can turn words into the meaningful actions we truly need.

Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

John Leo Algo is the National Coordinator of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, the Philippines's largest civil society network for climate action. He is also a member of the Youth Advisory Group for Environmental and Climate Justice, anchored in YECAP under agencies of the United Nations. He has been a climate and environment journalist since 2016.

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