Photo: @COP28_UAE / X (formerly Twitter)
Photo: @COP28_UAE / X (formerly Twitter)

COP28 recap: 5 insider highlights from negotiation rooms of Global Stocktake text

The two-week long battle of negotiations saw many competing priorities from countries influencing the text

The 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in December 2023 culminated with the adoption of the historical Global Stocktake text. 

Highlights and gaps in the text have been explored widely. However, more than 15 rounds of negotiations between countries led to the final version, with many differences ironed out and compromises made. 

Here are five developments during the Global Stocktake negotiations that you may not have noticed, supplemented with insights on specific demands from countries in the negotiations.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels

The final version of the text has a paragraph dedicated to fossil fuels, recognising the need to transition away from them and calling on Parties to do so. Earlier language on fossil fuels, however, had a bullet with stronger language calling for “Phasing out unabated fossil fuels and to rapidly reducing their use so as to achieve Net-Zero carbon dioxide in energy systems by or around mid-century.” 

Other language was also watered down. For example, on tripling renewable energy capacity, earlier iterations of the text called for “Tripling renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 compared to the 2022 level to 11,000 gigawatts and doubling the global average annual rate of energy-efficiency improvement compared to the 2022 level to 4.1 per cent by 2030.”

The final version simply said, “Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.”

Similarly, the bullet point on coal earlier specified, “A rapid phase out of unabated coal power this decade and an immediate cessation of the permitting of new unabated coal power generation.” The final version called only for “Accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”, which is the exact language used in COP26 in the Glasgow Climate Pact

A point on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies was pushed back by India and China and the final version has arrived at more balanced language, calling for phasing out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions.”

The subsequent paragraph on transitional fuels was brought up by Russia, which stated the benefits of such fuels in helping the wellbeing of populations must be acknowledged. Although not specified, it is more or less certain that transitional fuels refer to natural gas. Given that oil and gas do not have specific bullet points, unlike coal, this presents a leeway for countries to continue producing them.

On adaptation finance

Earlier versions of the text did not reference the 2023 Adaptation Gap Report like the final one does. This is significant because the Adaptation Gap Report recognised that the needs of developing countries have grown manifold, adaptation finance has not kept up and the goal of doubling this finance is no longer enough. Pushed for by the G77 and China with the support of other developing countries, the final text acknowledged the same.

In a final compromise, the Global Stocktake text saw strong language on the need for better quantity and quality of adaptation finance. However, these mentions were all moved under the “means of implementation” section from the “adaptation” section. 

This was also the case for loss and damage and mitigation, where all previous references to finance needs under these sections were moved to means of implementation. This insistence of developed countries to discuss finance matters only under finance negotiations and not in a cross-cutting manner has frequently caused issues with developing nations, who stress that finance is critical to meeting all other targets. 

Responsibility for providing better quality finance

The text noted clearly “that scaling up new and additional grant-based, highly concessional finance, and non-debt instruments remains critical to supporting developing countries, particularly as they transition in a just and equitable manner.” This is a notable win, as the nuanced language addressing the issue of debt in climate finance has long been a demand of the Global South. 

In a similar vein, the text noted that loss and damage due to climate change in developing countries leads to “reduced fiscal space and constraints in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.” Elsewhere, there is also language stating that for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) of all countries to be successful in bringing down emissions, the transfer of finance, technology and capacity-building resources is critical. 

A few paragraphs saw specific language on the responsibility of developed nations to provide finance to developing nations retained, recalling the responsibility of the Global North to act on the consequences of their historical emissions. Even so, there would have been more mentions made towards historical responsibility had the United States, Australia and other developed countries not pushed for them to be removed. 

At the same time, specific requests by the Global North to call for a work programme on Article 2.1c were not included in the text. Article 2.1c talks about aligning international financial flows with low-carbon development. The G77 and China stressed the lack of understanding around Article 2.1c and that it must be recognised in complementarity with Article 9, which specifies that developed countries must provide finance to the developing. 

The final text acknowledged this, recognising “the need for further understanding of Article 2, paragraph 1(c), of the Paris Agreement, including its complementarity with Article 9 of the Paris Agreement.”

Disagreements on technology transfer principles

The text states that technological resources must be shared between countries on a “voluntary” basis and calls for a technology implementation programme to be established. The programme was a specific ask from G77 and China with other developing countries, who state it will help regulate fair and reliable technology transfer from the Global North to the Global South. 

A specific roadblock to technology transfer comes in the form of intellectual property (IP) issues. Many developing country negotiators have stated that developed countries withhold IP rights on new technology or patent low-carbon systems, making them expensive and inaccessible for the Global South. 

Developing countries instead want low-carbon technology to be co-developed on home soil, in order to be affordable and scalable. The hope is for the technology implementation programme to provide a framework for addressing these issues. 

Guidance from first Global Stocktake next

The text directed the development of some new items over the next few years:

  • A draft decision on the technology implementation programme is expected to be prepared by the Subsidiary Body of Implementation in November 2024. 
  • Countries will submit their first biennial transparency reports and national inventory reports by December 2024. 
  • The next round of NDCs from countries is expected before November 2025.
  • Developed countries have been asked to prepare and submit a report on the doubling of adaptation finance in 2024.
  • A discussion on mountains and climate change will be held in June 2024 in Bonn, Germany.
  • A dialogue on implementing the Global Stocktake outcomes will start in Bonn in June 2024 and culminate in 2028 when the second Global Stocktake is due. 
  • The first phase of information collection for the second Global Stocktake will begin in November 2026.
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