The story so far: Ahead of the just concluded G-20 summit, that saw several world leaders converge in New Delhi, the United Nations climate secretariat made public a ‘synthesis report’ on the results of three meetings held so far to discuss progress achieved by countries in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement of 2015.
Why is it called the ‘global stocktake’ report?
The synthesis report ties into a larger exercise called the ‘global stocktake,’ that is expected to take place once in five years. In 2015, when countries committed in Paris to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century and “as far as possible” below 1.5 degrees Celsius, they also agreed to periodically review, or take stock of efforts, made by individual countries in containing greenhouse gases and transitioning their fossil-fuel dependent energy systems to renewable sources.
The first report this year is expected to significantly influence discussions in November when country representatives converge in Dubai for the 28th edition of the UN climate Conference of Parties (COP) in November. While countries have laid out their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), they are expected to — but not obliged to — increase their ambitions every five years. While the latest NDC were submitted in 2020, a stocktake also aims to push countries to set higher targets before the next NDCs are publicised in 2025.
What does the report say?
The 45-page report lays out 17 ‘key findings’ that overall suggests that the world is not on track to achieve Paris Agreement targets, though there was still a “rapidly narrowing” window for countries to get their act together. In terms of new information, the synthesis report isn’t a significant update on the UN synthesis report of 2022, released ahead of COP 27 in Egypt, where the NDCs of 166 countries were analysed to conclude that they were inadequate to meet Paris-agreed targets.
The United Nations Emissions Gap Report, also released last year, reported that 23 billion tonnes of CO2 were required to be cut to keep emissions in line with Paris agreements, whereas current pledges by countries even if fully implemented would only cut 2-3 billion tonnes, leaving an emissions gap of around 20 billion tonnes. This too has been highlighted in the latest synthesis report.
What are the ‘key findings’?
These 17 headline statements say that the Paris Agreement has galvanised countries into setting goals and signalling the urgency of the climate crisis. Governments need to support ways to transition their economies away from fossil fuel businesses and that states and communities must strengthen efforts. While rapid change could be “disruptive,” countries should work on ensuring that the economic transition be equitable and inclusive. It stated that much more ambition was needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 and further by 60% in 2035 and reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 globally.
Renewable energy has to be scaled up and all ‘unabated fossil fuels’ (for example, coal plants without carbon capture and storage mechanisms) were to be rapidly eliminated. Deforestation and land-degradation have to be halted and reversed and agricultural practices critical to reducing emissions and conserving and enhancing carbon sinks have to be encouraged. While the world, as a whole, has committed to scale up steps to help adapt to the unfolding and future impacts of climate change, most efforts were “fragmented, incremental, sector-specific and unequally distributed across regions.” Transparent reporting on adaptation could facilitate and enhance understanding, implementation and international cooperation.
Averting, minimising and addressing ‘loss and damage,’ requires urgent action across climate and development policies to manage risks comprehensively and provide support to impacted communities. Support for adaptation and funding arrangements for averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage, from the impact of climate change, needed to be rapidly scaled up from expanded and innovative sources. Financial flows needed to be made consistent with climate-resilient development to meet urgent and increasing needs.
Access to climate finance in developing countries needed to be enhanced. It was “essential” to unlock and redeploy trillions of dollars to meet global investment needs, including by rapidly shifting finance flows globally to support a pathway towards low GHG emissions and climate-resilient development.
What impact did the global stocktake report have?
While the report is expected to set the template for the forthcoming conference, it did resonate in the G20 Leaders Declaration last week — said to be among the most significant outcomes of the summit. This document for the first time formally recognises the massive jump in finance necessary for the world to transition to a renewable energy economy. The Declaration “…noted the need for USD 5.8-5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period required for developing countries….as well as USD 4 trillion per year for clean energy technologies by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050.”