COP28: Global Stocktake ‘building blocks’ struggling to take shape

The GST is expected to produce its final agreed text over the weekend
Photo: COP28_UAE / X (formerly Twitter)
Photo: COP28_UAE / X (formerly Twitter)

After a process of two years, the Global Stocktake (GST) is expected to conclude with a substantive outcome at the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28).

However, at the time of writing this article, countries were still negotiating a draft text on the GST released on December 1, 2023, getting embroiled in differences over language, bullet points and appropriate elements. 

Over two days, negotiations have been divided across five meetings, each running overtime. On mitigation, the key highlights of the draft text included pre-2020 gaps, historical emissions and references to the global carbon budget in its backward-looking elements. 

Forward-looking elements contained references to greater ambition needs, direction for more robust Nationally Determined Contributions and sectoral targets. 

Clashes occurred with developed countries including the United States, Canada and Australia calling for more ambition and sharing of responsibility by emerging large emitters. Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries rejected the idea that the GST is a turning point for developing countries to share emissions burden with the developed world. In response, Canada said “We see no basis in the Paris Agreement for differentiated pathways. We see greatest capacity and greatest responsibility for ambition”. The statement earned a rebuttal from the LMDC: “Interesting that Canada says that there is no basis for developed countries to lead. But there is a basis. Recognising the sustainable lifestyle and consumption, developed countries should be taking a lead.”

In a paragraph on fossil fuel phasedown, the draft text references the goal to triple renewable energy capacity, double energy efficiency and phasedown fossil fuels. However, it also has a specific point mentioning the “phaseout of / no new coal” without any such specific reference to oil and gas. The US suggested a stop to fossil fuel subsidies. Developing countries including India opposed this suggestion stating it would be policy prescriptive, alongside opposing sectoral targets.

On adaptation, the key contention arose over adaptation finance. The Group of 77 and China, representing the largest group of developing countries, highlighted the absence of strong language on the need for funding from developed countries and references to the recent 2023 Adaptation Gap Report. The biggest demand from the developing group is to acknowledge that doubling adaptation finance is just a starting point and that the actual needs are much higher. 

In our recent analysis of country submissions, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had found that the call to double adaptation finance was agreed on by most, both developed and developing. CSE also expected for COP28 to increase the goal for adaptation finance following the findings of the Adaptation Gap Report. The US, among other developed countries, stressed that matters on finance have to be moved under the “means of implementation” section. 

However, at the same time, the Global North continued to push for emphasising that the need for adaptation arises from a lack of mitigation. It seems the developed countries acknowledge cross-cutting references in the GST text only until they put the spotlight on the lack of climate finance. In fact, while finally discussing the theme of finance, Australia suggested “recognising that the adaptation fund is a relatively small actor in adaptation finance flows and Multilateral Development Banks play a far bigger role”.

The hesitation in discussing matters of climate finance was evident throughout the negotiation on the theme. The US, Switzerland, Canada and EU focused heavily on Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement which speaks to aligning financial flows with low carbon pathways. Their aim, however, was to urge the GST to direct the formation of a Work Programme on Article 2.1c. This also led them to suggest that matters on finance be further discussed under this Programme. The only other contribution from them was on the need to acknowledge that the $100 billion a year goal will “most likely been met in 2023”, according to OECD. There are, however, concerns that the OECD overestimates this outcome. 

Apart from demanding more accountability on delivery of public grant-based climate finance, the developing countries proposed additions to means of implementation sub-themes. For better technology transfer, G77 and China proposed setting up a Technology Implementation Programme to facilitate technology development and transfer from developed to developing countries. 

Backed by other developing countries, the group also proposed a Capacity Building Fund to tend to matters of knowledge transfer and capacity building to improve ambition. Developed countries voiced their displeasure with the proposal of new elements stating the activities intended under them are already being operationalised in other processes. 

The draft text is expected to change after suggestions have come in on nearly every paragraph from countries. Guidance on the Global Goal on Adaptation and New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance are sparse. 

The GST is expected to produce its final agreed text over the weekend. As of now, there are two more sections on loss and damage and response measures to get through.

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