- At COP28 the hot topics of the negotiations are Global Stocktake, climate finance, adaptation and Just Transition.
- The negotiations draft texts are still behind, many aspects of the items on the agenda still need to be discussed.
- In all negotiations we talk about financing necessary for transition and capacity building, as a consequence of shared but differentiated responsibilities.
We are now halfway through the first week of COP28. After getting off to a flying start – with the quick approval of the agenda and a fast and unexpected green light for the Loss and Damage fund -, the negotiations continued on a tight schedule in the first 4 days. The topics on which the informal sessions focus remain Global Stocktake, climate finance, adaptation and Just Transition. To date, the draft texts for the final decisions are still being discussed on all the items on the agenda.
But let’s see in detail, for each key point, how far are we today.
Global Stocktake (GST)
The GST is the key topic of this COP28, which for the first time since the opening of the Paris Agreement must assess the results achieved and how countries will have to update their climate goals by 2025. The GST will then be repeated every 5 years starting from 2023.
All the technical reports on the different goals of the Paris Agreement have been published, and it is now necessary to define the draft of the final decision to implement these reports. At the moment all options are still on the table and the draft texts are far from being finalized. During the discussions on Monday, December 4th, it was discussed whether the GST should focus only on future actions that countries will have to undertake or also on the gap left by the actions that previously did not allow to reach the pre-established goals. An ad hoc draft text will then have to be released on December 5th.
What does it mean, in this negotiating text, to choose whether to look at the past or focus on the actions to be taken in the future? In the first case, the spotlight remains on the fact that the responsibility for the climate crisis falls mainly on the richer Countries, which in the past have not carried out actions for the transition. In the second case, however, it is highlighted that all Countries are responsible for the actions they carry out, precisely because the Paris Agreement overcomes that distinction between Annex and non-Annex Countries on which the UNFCCC convention was based. This second position is the one supported by developed Countries, while the first one is preferred by Countries of the global South.
In the GST, then, there is still a discussion about phase out or phase down from fossil fuels (i.e. the terminology to be used to indicate total abandonment or just a reduction in their use), and in particular the phase out/down from all fuels fossil fuels, or only by those whose emissions cannot be compensated. This leaves room for loopholes in the transition, such as the use of carbon capture and storage or carbon markets.
On Monday afternoon, the possibility emerged from civil society organizations that the presidency would jeopardize the discussions between the Parties, taking advantage of the differences that arose between them, to take control of the situation (and the text) and carry on the discussion by discussing individually with each Country.
The new goal in terms of climate finance must be defined by COP29, next year’s Climate Conference: at the moment, therefore, there is still no discussion about the amount to be allocated in the coming years for financial flows in support of adaptation and mitigation.
In these informal sessions, one of the most relevant aspects is the request for equity between mitigation and adaptation finance, but above all an increase in adaptation finance, which is essential from the point of view of developing Countries who are already suffering the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Adaptation finance is important to close the adaptation gap, always highlighted by periodic UNEP reports.
Another aspect to assess is the possible inclusion of financial flows towards the new Loss and Damage fund within the overall climate finance goal. This option is opposed by richer Countries, given the difficulty in defining a financing target for this fund. But more generally we still ask ourselves what climate finance is and what it can be used for.
In addition to the “quantity” related to climate finance flows, their “quality” is also being discussed, evaluating for example the use of grants rather than loans which can further magnify the indebtedness of developing Countries. The same applies to the comparison on the use of public finance alone or on the integration of private finance. Developed Countries try to push for private financing, which developing Countries do not want to accept, but it is clear to everyone that public finance must be central to this Paris Agreement process.
Global geopolitical tensions are also reflected in negotiations on climate issues. In fact, there is an ongoing discussion about who the contributors should be: they have always been the Annex II Countries, i.e. the OECD Countries (USA, EU, Canada, Australia,…); which however also try to involve the new emerging economies, first among all China, a Country which, despite having overcome this condition since 1992, persists in wanting to participate in the UNFCCC negotiations as a developing Country. Other relevant aspects regarding climate finance are the transparency of the flows (from who they arrive and to whom are they addressed?), additionality with respect to other non-UNFCCC financial commitments, such as development aid, and equity in the distribution of financing, based on the needs of the various developing Countries that are eligible to receive these funds.
The negotiations on adaptation – or rather on the measures necessary to prepare for the now inevitable effects of the climate crisis – concern various aspects: the Global Goal on Adaptation, the review of the activities of the Adaptation Committee, the National Adaptation Plans and the fund for the Adaptation.
Regarding the global adaptation goal, the Parties expressed the need to have a statement on global ambitions in terms of adaptation in the draft decision. Relevant aspects are the definition of the targets that Countries must achieve, the relationship with stakeholders so that the adaptation process takes into account the real needs of local communities, and the importance of the means of implementing adaptation policies, first of all the capacity building and climate finance by developed Countries towards developing ones, as a consequence of common but differentiated responsibilities, themes already seen and which also return to these working tables.
Similar aspects also emerge from the negotiation on National Adaptation Plans. The co-facilitators have reminded the Parties in recent days that it is necessary to continue with the formulation and implementation of the National Plans. On this aspect, the Parties underlined the need to include in the final decision a reference to the Plans already presented and the importance of financial, technical and capacity building support for the formulation and implementation of the Plans. Also important is the reference to the involvement of stakeholders and the integration of indigenous people and local knowledge.
One of the most heartfelt topics here at COP28 is the Just Transition, which somehow summarizes all the main topics also discussed in the other informal negotiations.
There are many inequalities in the world, on a global, regional and national scale. Climate change, in terms of impacts, often affects the most vulnerable groups, women, young people, less developed Countries, indigenous peoples, aggravating already existing social inequalities.
Also, the transition towards a net-zero emissions trajectory also risks putting some groups and Countries in difficulty.
For example, in addition to having ambitious national mitigation goals, developing Countries, again, need substantial funding to achieve their goals, without which they cannot afford the transition. Even the consumption of the carbon budget by developed Countries alone, which have almost finished it in recent decades, is not consistent with the definition of climate justice.
The Just Transition therefore aims to allow sustainable development of all Countries, with the achievement of the SDGs and the eradication of poverty, leaving no one behind.
In this context, the negotiations in Dubai focus on including some important aspects in the negotiating texts, such as the guarantee of human rights, the education and information of young people and communities, and the capacity building towards developing Countries.
Article by Francesca Casale and Teresa Giuffrè, delegates of the Italian Climate Network at COP28
Cover image: photo by Francesca Casale