This year is a critical moment for climate action.
The mounting impacts of climate change, from floods and droughts to hurricanes and heat waves, are taking a major toll on human lives and economies globally — particularly in vulnerable developing nations with the fewest resources to protect themselves.
Current climate actions are not nearly enough to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and avoid the worst of these impacts, and countries must step up their efforts to get on track. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report tells us that actions taken this decade will have impacts “for thousands of years.”
The Global Stocktake, happening in 2023, offers a pivotal opportunity to correct course and accelerate global climate action.
What Is the Global Stocktake and Why Is It Important?
The Paris Agreement’s Global Stocktake process is designed to assess the global response to the climate crisis every five years, with the first-ever Stocktake slated to conclude during this year’s UN climate conference (COP28) in December. It evaluates the world’s progress on slashing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience to climate impacts, and securing finance and support to address the climate crisis.
The first Global Stocktake marks the most extensive assessment of global action on climate change to date, distilling over 1,600 documents from diverse sources and drawing from consultations not only with scientists and governments but also cities, businesses, farmers, Indigenous people, civil society and others.
Its key findings, released in a Synthesis Report in September, lay bare just how far the world is from achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals and emphasize the closing window of opportunity. It underscores that if we don’t take stronger action before the second Global Stocktake in 2028, we may witness the devastating reality of global temperatures soaring beyond 1.5 degrees C.
But the report also illuminates a path forward that governments will need to follow to combat the climate crisis. It pinpoints key areas where immediate action must happen and provides a roadmap for the systems transformations needed to dramatically reduce emissions, build resilience and safeguard our future.
By the end of COP28, countries must agree on how they will leverage the Stocktake’s findings to keep the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C alive and address the impacts of climate change.
What Is the Purpose of the Global Stocktake?
Established under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, the Global Stocktake is designed “to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of [the Paris] Agreement and its long-term goals.” Those goals include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F); building resilience to climate impacts; and aligning financial support with the scale and scope needed to tackle the climate crisis.
The Global Stocktake is intended to evaluate progress on climate action at the global level — not the national level — and identify overall gaps to achieve the Paris Agreement as well as opportunities to bridge them.
But the Global Stocktake is meant to go far beyond an assessment.
In the Paris Agreement, Parties agreed that the Stocktake should inform countries in updating and enhancing their climate actions and support, and in strengthening international cooperation for climate action. It should also inform countries’ new climate plans (known as “nationally determined contributions,” or NDCs) which will be fully updated next in 2025. Conducting the Global Stocktake every five years is meant to ensure that countries and others are increasingly ambitious with their actions to keep the Paris Agreement’s goals in reach.
If undertaken effectively, the Global Stocktake can provide the basis that guides countries’ and non-state actors’ climate policy and investment decisions. And it can help drive transformational action across systems like energy, nature, food and transport.
Which Aspects of Climate Action Does the Global Stocktake Assess?
At COP24 in Katowice, Poland in 2018, countries agreed that the Global Stocktake would address climate progress in three key areas:
- Mitigation: Evaluating global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), and identifying opportunities for additional emissions cuts.
- Adaptation: Measuring progress in countries’ abilities to enhance their resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts.
- Means of implementation, including finance, technology transfer and capacity building: Assessing progress on aligning financial flows with emissions-reduction goals and climate-resilient development, and providing support to developing nations to address the climate crisis.
Additionally, the Global Stocktake is meant to address loss and damage, helping assess the actions and support needed to respond to climate impacts that go beyond what communities and ecosystems can adapt to. It also considers the unintended social and economic consequences that may arise from climate action and implementation, known as response measures. In addition, the Global Stocktake is intended to emphasize the importance of promoting equity and leveraging the best available science to inform strategies for tackling the climate crisis.
What Does the Global Stocktake Process Look Like?
The Global Stocktake is meant to be a participatory process that is open, inclusive and transparent, as countries agreed at COP24. Taking place over the course of two years, the Global Stocktake begins with data collection and technical assessment phases and culminates with a high-level political phase. This cycle’s final political phase will take place at COP28 in Dubai in December 2023.
What’s happened so far in the Global Stocktake process?
In its initial data collection phase, which ended in March 2023, the Global Stocktake collected inputs from the UNFCCC Secretariat, its constituted bodies and the IPCC to ensure balanced and comprehensive information across all thematic areas. Parties to the Paris Agreement, international organizations and non-Party stakeholders (such as members of civil society) also had the opportunity to submit relevant information via a public information portal.
The second phase, technical assessment, convened Parties, experts and non-Party stakeholders to evaluate the information gathered in Phase 1, identified important technical insights and made way for the final political phase of the Global Stocktake. It involved a series of three dialogues that commenced in June 2022 and concluded at the 2023 intersessional meetings in Bonn, Germany. A summary report was developed after each dialogue.
What were the key findings from the first Global Stocktake?
The Global Stocktake’s technical phase ended with an overarching Synthesis Report, released in September 2023, which summarizes key findings that will inform the Stocktake’s political outcomes at COP28. While the report highlights progress that has been made since the Paris Agreement — global temperatures are now expected to rise by 2.4-2.6 degrees C (4.3-4.7 degrees F) by the end of the century, compared to 3.7-4.8 degrees C (6.7-8.6 degrees F) in 2010 — it also makes clear that greater ambition and urgency are needed on all fronts to combat the climate crisis.
The Synthesis Report underscores a persistent “emissions gap,” noting that current climate commitments are not in line with pathways needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C. But it also charts a path forward, emphasizing the urgent need for system-wide transformations that can slash emissions and ensure a climate-resilient future. Most pressing is the need to phase out unabated fossil fuels, scale renewable energy, significantly shift transport and industry, and reduce non-CO2 emissions such as methane. Preserving nature, ending deforestation and embracing sustainable agriculture are also key to enhance resilience and deliver emissions cuts.
Critically, the Stocktake report puts people at the heart of these transitions and underscores the imperative for resilience and equity in all transformative efforts. It stresses the urgency of increasing adaptation support and addressing loss and damage, particularly for vulnerable communities. It also emphasizes that plans and commitments for adaptation action and support have been poorly implemented, are unevenly distributed and have progressed only incrementally.
To address these issues, it underscores the need to reorient trillions of dollars in global finance and mobilize significant resources in support of a zero-carbon, climate-resilient and equitable future. The report is clear that just transitions, equity, and tailoring approaches to local contexts will be key to ambitious and robust outcomes that advance sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
What will happen at COP28?
The third and final phase of the Global Stocktake, consideration of outputs, will take place at COP28 in Dubai. This stage is critical, as it will determine how countries respond politically to the gaps and opportunities identified in the technical phase.
During Phase 3, country delegates will discuss the Stocktake’s technical findings, identify opportunities and challenges, and assess measures and best practices for climate action and international cooperation. Following these discussions, countries will collectively produce a summary of key political messages, which can then be referenced in COP28’s final decision. This final decision would formalize the guidance and commitments all countries adopt in developing their future climate actions and support.
How Should Countries Respond to the Global Stocktake Findings at COP28?
The Global Stocktake’s final phase at COP28 has the potential to result in bold political commitments that can drive breakthrough solutions across systems and sectors. However, with a lack of political will, the Stocktake risks becoming an information-sharing exercise coupled with broad, unactionable recommendations.
Countries must fully leverage the Stocktake’s political phase to maximize its impact and avoid drawing vague conclusions. It will then be up to national policymakers to use the outcomes of the Global Stocktake to strengthen national implementation of their climate commitments as well as increase their ambition and action — including through greater finance and support.
Crucially, the response to the Global Stocktake should include an unequivocal signal that countries will submit enhanced NDCs with ambitious 2030 and 2035 climate targets well ahead of COP30. Finance to enable the development and implementation of these NDCs will be essential. As an outcome from the Global Stocktake, the UN Secretary General can convene a high-level event in early 2025, inviting countries to present their new NDCs and finance commitments. Countries can also invite voluntary national, regional and thematic stocktakes to be held in 2024 to help inform NDCs and other national commitments.
Additionally, the Global Stocktake should prompt specific actions to accelerate transformative climate action and support in high-impact areas. These include:
- Rapidly and equitably shifting away from fossil fuels and scaling up renewables. Without tackling the primary source of the problem – burning and financing fossil fuels – we will not be able to solve the climate crisis. In addition to transitioning away from fossil fuels, countries must commit at COP28 to at least triple annual renewable energy capacity by 2023 and increase the share of renewables in global electricity generation to at least two-thirds by 2030.
- Transforming food systems, agriculture, forestry and land-use to bolster food security, enhance resilience and equitably reduce emissions. Failure to accelerate this systemwide transformation in the face of intensifying climate impacts will undermine global efforts to eliminate food insecurity, hunger and poverty. Scaling up climate-smart agriculture can boost yields while reducing GHG emissions from agriculture production by as much as 25% by 2030 (compared to 2020 levels). Countries must also commit to halt deforestation and degradation, shift to sustainable, healthy diets, and halve food loss and waste by 2030.
- Rapidly reducing transport emissions and shifting to fossil fuel-free transport. Fossil fuels still meet over 90% of all transport energy demands. By 2030, countries should double the share of fossil fuel-free transport to at least two-thirds of all passenger travel. This includes shifting a significant share of trips to public and non-motorized modes of transit like cycling, while also rapidly increasing the share of electric vehicles in global passenger car sales to at least 75% and aiming for 30% zero-carbon trucks sales by 2030.
- Ramping up finance and other support for adaptation and providing new and additional funds to address loss and damage – while simplifying access to these funds and effectively channeling resources to the local level. Countries and communities that have contributed the least to the climate crisis, but often suffer its most devastating impacts, urgently need resources to enhance their adaptive capacity and address losses and damages. Developed nations must follow through on at least doubling accessible adaptation finance by 2025, scale up high-quality and accessible adaptation support for local actors, and prioritize new, innovative, grant-based finance for loss and damage.
- Delivering on climate finance commitments and urgently shifting all global financial flows at the scale needed to enable net-zero emissions and climate-resilient development. Wealthy nations must meet their $100 billion annual climate finance commitment this year and make up for the shortfalls since 2020, while ensuring faster access and higher-quality finance (for example, through grants). The Global Stocktake should also pave the way for a robust new climate finance goal, to be agreed upon at COP29, emphasizing the Paris Agreement’s spirit on mobilizing efforts that far exceed previous actions. That means surpassing the $100 billion target and adopting a balanced focus on mitigation and adaptation, especially for vulnerable developing countries. By 2030, both public and private investments will need to reach $5.2 trillion per year and nations should achieve a 7-to-1 ratio for clean energy over fossil fuels investments. At the same time, essential reforms are needed in international financial architecture, including multilateral development bank (MDB) reforms and solutions for countries facing debt distress compounded by climate change.
What’s Next on the Road to COP28?
With the release of the technical synthesis report, focus now shifts to the political phase of the Stocktake process. In the coming months leading up to COP28, ministers and negotiators will come together to leverage its findings in a bid to keep 1.5 degrees C alive and address the impacts of climate change.
A key milestone on the road to COP will be the Climate Ambition summit, to be convened by the UN Secretary-General during the UN General Assembly in September 2023. The summit will expect countries, business, cities and regions, civil society and financial institutions to come forward with new, tangible and concrete climate actions and commitments that support the objectives of the Global Stocktake.
Ultimately, the success of the first Global Stocktake hinges on whether governments adequately respond to its findings by the conclusion of COP28 — not with vague platitudes but with commitments to real action. Success depends on countries’ commitment to significantly scaling up their climate actions and support, putting forward ambitious national climate plans in 2025, and accelerating key transformative actions over the next decade.
Following the conclusion of COP28, everyone — from countries and CEOs to cities and governors — must seize the moment to reevaluate their own targets and action, ensuring their alignment with a zero-carbon future that increases resilience and boosts support for the countries and communities that need it most. The Global Stocktake at COP28 should not just be a catalog of our failures, but a global springboard to keep 1.5 degrees C and climate-resilient development pathways within reach.
Jamal Srouji is an Associate for WRI’s Global Climate Program.
Deirdre Cogan is Communications Manager for WRI’s Global Climate Program.