The first technical assessment session of the Global Stocktake (GST) of greenhouse gas emissions concluded yesterday at the UN Interim Climate Negotiations. The GST is the process under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement for the five-yearly review of the commitments made by nations party to the agreement to reduce their climate-changing emissions. During these two weeks, negotiators have been meeting together with members of civil society, including scientists and experts called upon to support the assessment of the emissions data collected so far with presentations and technical opinions on their areas of expertise.

For the assessment, negotiators divided into three working groups dedicated to mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation (technologies, capacity building, finance) respectively. This being the first assessment session, and since no comprehensive review of greenhouse gas emissions data underlying the parties’ reduction commitments has been attempted before, there are no precise ways to conduct this type of analysis. This technical process aims, in addition to facilitating increased ambition, to create these modalities by ensuring their effectiveness. For this reason, the process coordinators went to great lengths to ensure the direct participation of civil society representatives, experts and scientists, who in many cases, to the surprise of some negotiators, were able to sit directly at the working tables. Civil society has requested from the coordinators that this attitude of openness continue in the subsequent stages of the technical assessment, after this first round two more will follow, one at COP27 (CMA session 2022) and one at the 2023 interim negotiations (Subsidiary bodies session 2023).

Source: Reference Manual for the Enhanced Transparency Framework under the Paris Agreement.

Civil society also pointed out that there was an imbalance in the representation of participants from between the global north and south, especially among the scientists who contributed their technical expertise, stressing that having experts working on the ground in the areas of the world most affected by climate change is necessary to ensure that “the best available science” (Art.14 Paris Agreement) is integrated into the process. It will be interesting to see how the coordinators will overcome this drawback, as there are no set modalities, but as it is a “learning by doing” process (hands-on learning approach) the upcoming sessions may take a very different form.

In addition to the working tables, the coordinators allocated time for informal conversations among delegates in a “world café” style, which is a conversational process for knowledge sharing in which groups of people discuss a topic in small groups, maintaining a degree of formality to make sure everyone has a chance to talk. From both negotiators and civil society, the process was appreciated because it allowed for more interaction and exchange of information and ideas that are difficult to present in the structure of a traditional negotiation process. Whether this mode of working will also become a stable feature of this process will remain to be seen.

The technical work on Global Stocktake comes at a time when recent IPCC reports have clearly demonstrated how current warming is already causing human rights violations and catastrophic damage, including a steady loss of irreplaceable biodiversity. Positive, then, that direct reference was made to the IPCCC findings at the working tables and that the need to ensure that human rights principles (gender equity, rights of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups, protection of local communities) and considerations of historical responsibility for climate-changing emissions inform the process was emphasized. It is worth noting, however, that, the last two points were raised primarily by civil society, which hopes for more feedback from negotiators in future sessions. Other recurring themes were the gap between the complexity of adaptation challenges between North and South, with references to possible solutions, barriers in resourcing and capacity building (capacity building). Topics that created tension: the establishment of dedicated financial mechanisms also linked to the availability of funding, and gaps between north and south on urban adaptation and global transition. Gaps in resource availability for adaptation were also recognized, and as such, one opportunity identified is the integration of climate resilience into Overseas Development Aid. Finally, it is noteworthy that recognition of the leadership role in mitigation and adaptation work was identified as a priority.

The process so far has had a positive start, but the discussion has remained general without going into the details needed to define a process that, given the severity of the climate crisis, needs to be made effective as soon as possible, so one hopes for an acceleration of the work in the next two sessions. There also remains the question of how these results will be used. At the end of each technical review session (Subsidiary bodies session 2022; CMA session 2022; Subsidiary bodies session 2023) a report will be synthesized, the three reports resulting from the GST review phase will then be synthesized into a final report, which will then be presented to the parties, potentially, at ministerial events where they will be used to inform recommendations to raise the level of ambition for the next 5 years. The nature, and thus the weight, of these recommendations will depend on how the findings of the final TSO report are integrated into the policy process related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, determining its level of effectiveness.

The speech that during the closing plenary of the GST encapsulated all the urgency of having go into detail and resolve the thorniest issues related to decreasing altering gas emissions was delivered by Trinidad and Tobago representing the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS):

“(…) For the next session we would like to see: (…) more focus on cross-cutting issues, having a thematic focus was a good starting point, but we need to start deepening and broadening the conversations (…) to move from the conceptual to the concrete. (…) From our point of view we do not have time for inaction, (…) we are clearly on the path to exceed 3 degrees of increase in global average temperatures, with all the devastating consequences that we have learned and discussed in recent days from the recent IPCC reports; with a temperature increase beyond 1.5 degrees more and more limits for adaptation will be exceeded and the consequence will be more and more losses and impacts. This grim reality is the real cross-cutting issue that we all have to deal with, in the context of the GST; (…) we need more ambition on adaptation, mitigation, implementation and support, including financial support to address losses and damages, (…) we urgently need a cross-cutting perspective on equity (…) because if we do not change course our very existence is at stake. (…)”.

Article by Chiara Soletti, Policy Advisor and Climate and Human Rights Section Coordinator

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