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ROAD TO COP28: Global stocktake, fossil fuels phase out to dominate climate talks


Copenhagen Ministerial kickstarts COP28

Stocktake 'essential to path forward'

Difficult phase out talks ahead: Danish minister

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  • Eklavya Gupte
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Finalizing the world's first global stocktake of climate actions, committing to the phase-out of unabated fossils and setting up more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are set to dominate discussions at this year's COP28 UN Climate Change Conference, key climate officials said March 21.

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This comes as climate ministers from almost 50 countries met in Copenhagen March 20-21 to kickstart the negotiations for COP28, which will be taking place in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12.

In a statement, Sultan al-Jaber, the president of COP28, reiterated that the conclusion of the world's first global stocktake will be one of the key priorities at this year's summit, rekindling global efforts in the fight against climate change.

The stocktake, itemizing what countries and stakeholders are doing or failing to do to meet their Paris Agreement commitments, is considered to be the centerpiece in global climate efforts.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has described the stocktake as "looking at everything related to where the world stands on climate action and support, identifying the gaps, and working together to agree on solutions pathways (to 2030 and beyond)."

At a press conference, Simon Steele, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said the stocktake would help chart a way forward "for the course correction that is needed."

COP27, held in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, achieved a landmark agreement on "loss and damage" funding, paving the way for climate change reparations.

However, progress on cutting emissions was disappointing, with the conference barely managing to keep language seeking to limit temperature rises to 1.5 C from the previous agreement at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.

Analysts at S&P Global Commodity Insights said discussion and presentation of the findings from the technical assessment of the stocktake will help in identifying key opportunities for increasing climate action and support.

"The global stocktake is a key part of the Paris Agreement; countries publicly assess how far they have come since 2015 -- a thorough reality check on actual progress. Importantly, they also need to think about how to increase ambition going forward... a key part of the Paris Agreement is the 'ratcheting up' of ambition over time," said Yuejia Peng, Associate Director, Climate and Sustainability Group at S&P Global.

Fossil fuels

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jorgensen confirmed the contentious issue of phasing out unabated fossil fuels would be discussed in Dubai, but said it was "difficult to say" whether an agreement could be reached.

"We need to deliver on our promise to get on track for 1.5 degrees [Celsius]. To this end, more ambitious NDCs are needed, and we simply need to agree on a commitment to phase out unabated fossil fuels," Jorgensen said at a press conference. "This should be replaced among other things by approximately 100 GW of renewable energy capacity every year."

Many viewed the lack of progress on explicitly mentioning reducing fossil fuel use as a failure of Egypt's presidency of the UN climate conference.

Countries were also reluctant to strengthen NDCs -- pledges on how nations are to reach their emissions reduction targets -- because of a lack of access to finance.

The COP27 conference, however, agreed to set up a fund for nations hardest hit by climate change, with a new transitional committee to make recommendations on "operationalization" of the fund at COP28 in November 2023.

"It is clear that we need to enhance NDCs, encourage all countries to align around net-zero by 2050 and define measurable interim plans by 2030," Jorgensen added.

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Climate finance

Issues around adaption and mitigation financing and funding for loss and damage will also be a key part of the negotiations, the statement added.

This meeting concluded a day after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urged governments and the financial sector to "play their part" and hasten global climate action efforts.

The latest IPCC report said investment in climate mitigation and adaption would have to rise by around three to six times from current levels by 2030.

"Increased finance, technology and international cooperation are critical enablers for accelerated climate action," the IPCC said in a statement. "If climate goals are to be achieved, both adaptation and mitigation financing would need to increase many-fold."

The IPCC's 2018 report had indicated that CO2 emissions needed to be cut by almost 50% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heat waves and rainfall.

The IPCC and other groups have described the 2020s as a decisive decade for climate, with the global atmospheric concentration of CO2 continuing to rise annually despite a widening pool of countries and companies setting targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.