Preview of Global Stocktake Tensions Evoked by African Concerns

The synthesis report hints at fossil fuel consensus, but African negotiators are displeased with its approach to equity, finance, and tech transfer.

When climate negotiators from across the world gather in the UAE for COP28 from 30 November to 12 December, one of the focus areas will be the Global Stocktake. This check-up on the amount of progress countries have made towards their goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement can best be compared to a report-card on collective progress. It will examine parties’ progress (or lack thereof) on mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation and support such as finance, loss and damage, and response measures.

This year’s stocktake will be the first ever. Its findings are meant to inform parties’ subsequent commitments through their Nationally Determined Contributions, countries’ self-defined national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement.

On 8 September, the co-facilitators of the Technical Dialogue on the Global Stocktake released a Synthesis Report, based on inputs they’d received so far and ongoing discussions. The report is, inevitably, contentious given that it touches on difficult issues and effectively serves as a summary of progress since the Paris Agreement came into force. Understandably, the report authors have faced tricky decisions around how to frame particular points, where the emphasis should lie, what the main challenges are, what the goals of the Paris Agreement even are, and the reasons for lack of progress.

The synthesis report highlights 17 technical findings, making clear that – while there has been progress – much more needs to be done. It also makes some interesting interventions on issues that are relatively contentious.

For example, the report finds that Parties are not on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C. In doing so, it indirectly affirms that 1.5°C is the goal of the Paris Agreement, overriding historical debates on whether the target agreed is 1.5°C or 2°C. It also finds that achieving net zero requires “scaling up renewable energy while phasing out all unabated fossil fuels, ending deforestation, reducing non-CO2 emissions, and implementing both supply- and demand-side measures”. The affirmation that fossil fuels require a full phase out, not just a phase down, will support those arguing this point during the negotiations, such as the European Union. Experts have suggested that the inclusion of this call in a key UN document could have a galvanising effect on the COP28 talks. President of COP26, Alok Sharma, has also “welcome[d] the report’s call to scale up renewable energy and phase out unabated fossil fuels”, stating that “these will undoubtedly be key discussion points at COP28”.

However, African representatives have been less receptive to the document. The African Group Of Negotiators (AGN) Chair, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, has raised concerns that the fundamental issues raised by the synthesis report have not been addressed. By way of example, he pointed out that “the right to sustainable development, just transitions, equitable multiple pathways, and fairness are important principles and considerations that unlock needed ambition in developing countries. But the report shields away from addressing them in the right context and in line with the overall objective of the [stocktake]”. The AGN made repeated submissions about the importance of safeguarding the “policy space for developing countries recording the lowest progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

The African group also wanted to see the document address the lack of finance and technology transfer to enable a just transition. Shitima criticised the report for failing to adequately reflect differences between countries’ circumstances and their respective capabilities, and the need for adequate and predictable provision of finance for adaptation. The AGN feels the discussion around the global financial architecture could have been better elaborated to include clear recommendations that numerous parties, including its members, had suggested.

These controversies and debates offer a preview of the points of tensions that will continue up to and at COP28. As Shitima stated: “we look forward to discussing the implications of the findings of the technical assessment phase in the next and final phase of [the First Global Stocktake] in an objective and constructive manner to ensure that it serves its purpose and motivates parties and international cooperation to demonstrate progression and enhance climate action and support towards achieving the purpose and global goals of the Paris Agreement”.

This piece was originally published by African Climate Wire.

Olivia Rumble is a climate change policy and legal specialist and a Director at Climate Legal. She writes for African Climate Wire, an independent news resource, collating and commenting on global climate change current affairs relevant to Africa. Andrew Gilder is a Director at Climate Legal, specialising in climate change law and governance, carbon markets and climate policy. He also writes for African Climate Wire on matters relating to the international climate negotiations, carbon markets and climate finance.

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