Climate change: What is the global stocktake?

The first global climate progress report found the world won't meet its climate goals, amid soaring temperatures. Will countries 'chart a better course' to cut emissions at key UN climate talks?

Wildfires ravaged forests around the world in recent months, including in Greece (pictured). (photo: DW)
Wildfires ravaged forests around the world in recent months, including in Greece (pictured). (photo: DW)


The first global climate progress report found the world won't meet its climate goals, amid soaring temperatures. Will countries 'chart a better course' to cut planet-heating emissions at key UN climate talks? In a year of record-breaking temperatures — both on land and in the sea — the final summary of the recent UN global stocktake report, held a dire warning for the planet.

"The window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all is rapidly closing," said the report, the first of its kind. "The Paris Agreement has driven near-universal climate action by setting goals and sending signals to the world regarding the urgency of responding to the climate crisis. While action is proceeding, much more is needed now on all fronts."

The global stocktake, the culmination of two years of analysis by climate scientists, government officials and other experts, is a review of the world's collective progress toward meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global heating. And it has shown that the world is far off track.

The report stressed that the goal to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century was becoming increasingly unrealistic. The UN's World Meteorological Organization has said there's a two-out-of-three chance that Earth will temporarily exceed that threshold within the next five years.

In order for the world to stay at 1.5 Celsius, the report said the use of unabated coal power would have to drop by 67-82% by 2030 versus 2019 levels, and drop to almost nothing by mid-century.

It also called for "the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels" and for more funding to support low-carbon development. It said the world needed to redirect the $450 billion (€424 billion) in annual subsidies for coal, oil and natural gas, calling for increased funding for people and places hurt by extreme weather caused by global warming.

Disappointment over first draft

Climate negotiators and world leaders are using these findings to shape discussions at the UN climate conference Dubai, with arguments around whether to "phase out" or "phase down" all fossil fuels set to dominate.

A draft text relating to the stocktake published December 1 noted with "concern" the "rapidly narrowing window" for countries to raise their ambitions on cutting emissions to limit warming to 1.5 C.

But the text still makes reference to a possible "phase-down" of oil, coal and gas. Activists, scientists and, most recently, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have said a full phaseout of climate-wrecking fossil fuels is necessary to stop catastrophic planetary heating.

"We must now all show a firm determination to phase out fossil fuels — first and foremost coal. We can set sail for this at this climate conference," Scholz told delegates at the COP28 summit on Saturday.

In the meantime, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, COP28 president and head of Abu Dhabi's state-run oil company, was forced to reiterate his faith in climate science after a video showed him questioning the scientific consensus that a fossil fuel phaseout is necessary to curb global warming.

Other stumbling blocks at COP28

At climate talks in Bonn, Germany, back in June, Harjeet Singh of the Climate Action Network International told DW the thorny questions about who is responsible for planet-warming emissions — both now and in the past — and who is going finance efforts to reverse course and adapt to the increasingly destructive impacts of climate change continue to dominate.

"Developing countries have to make a choice," said the head of global political strategy, pointing out that they are working with limited resources. "Every day, they have to choose between feeding people on the ground or investing in solar technologies."

Speaking with reporters, he stressed that "finance and equity are going to determine whether we put the world on the right track or it's going to be a doomsday scenario."

"The success of the global stocktake will ultimately determine the success of COP28," wrote UN climate chief Simon Stiell. "It is the defining moment of this year, this COP and — as one of the only two stocktaking moments in this decisive decade of climate action — ultimately pivotal to whether or not we meet our 2030 goals."

How does the global stocktake work?

The idea for the global stocktake came out of the 2015 Paris deal, with countries agreeing to regularly assess how the world was slashing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the impacts of a changing world and securing the necessary funds to address the climate crisis.

"The global stocktake is an ambition exercise. It's an accountability exercise. It's an acceleration exercise," said Stiell. "It's an exercise that is intended to make sure every party is holding up their end of the bargain, knows where they need to go next and how rapidly they need to move to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement."

The first part of the process, which began back in 2021 and ended earlier this year, involved collecting the latest data on emissions, adaptation efforts and countries' nationally determined — contributions national climate action plans.

The second phase, the technical assessment which concluded at the Bonn talks in June, gave experts and climate representatives the chance to evaluate the data ahead of political discussions at COP28.

Singh said most international agreements don't have a process like the global stocktake, which allows a periodic review and a chance to develop a forward-looking plan.

"It's unique, a really important process. But we need to make sure it is meaningful, and not just a technical process which will not lead to ambitious action," he said.

Stocktake an 'opportunity to chart a better course'

David Waskow, of the US-based think tank World Resources Institute, said ahead of the Bonn conference that the global stocktake will help shape how countries update their nationally determined contributions in key areas like energy transition, food systems, transport and sustainable consumption, a process they must do by 2025.

"The stocktake was quite explicitly designed to inform the next round of NDCs," he said. "This is really an opportunity to show how the implementation will happen, how the transformation will happen."

"The timing is really important," Singh told DW. "We've heard from scientists, we know what is needed. Now what we need is a political direction. And that's what the world leaders have to deliver."

This article was upated on 5 December with the latest from the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 05 Dec 2023, 4:01 PM