• At the end of the first week of COP28, work on Global Stocktake is behind schedule, with no actual text yet to be sent to ministers.
  • The current draft still presents all possible options (as many as 29), reflecting the difficulty of finding a compromise.
  • Worthy of note is the mention of “phase-out” of fossils and respect for human rights, which however are unlikely to remain.

Global Stocktake is at the heart of this COP, given its importance in raising ambition towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. It was already clear from the Bonn midterms that negotiations on an all-encompassing and polarizing topic would be thorny, and this first week of COP28 confirmed this.

Although negotiations on this issue began in the very first days, the current draft is far from being an adoptable text. There are too many divergent points of view, so that to reflect them the text presents 29 different options (the so-called “building blocks”) to start from to determine which elements to keep and which to eliminate.

According to the original plan, countries were to provide concise, “surgical” input to narrow open options as much as possible and produce a draft to be passed on to ministers as a basis for negotiations in the second week. The reality has been quite different: the negotiations on December 5th, which lasted all evening, saw several countries undertake long speeches (a record of 27 minutes for China), listing the desired changes point by point. It was therefore impossible for the co-chairs to produce a new text in the little time left, given that they were forced to close the “technical” phase in the first week and then pass the ball to the ministers.

As a result, the co-chairs took the unusual decision to forward the previous draft to the Presidency without any changes to reflect the latest input. As expected, several Parties expressed reservations about the procedure, which in a certain sense ignores all the long discussions of the previous day. After a pause for consultation, the Parties fortunately managed to reach a consensus. Thanks to the initiative of a group of countries led by Canada (including the EU, China and India), it was decided that the conclusions of the negotiation – exclusively “procedural”, i.e. on how the process must continue – will underline that the current draft does not fully reflect all the points of view of the Parties and that it is simply “work in progress”. These countries also offered to compile the list of inputs from all Parties not only from the previous day’s negotiations, but from the entire week. The Presidency (or possibly the Parties) will then have the task of drawing up the new draft for the second week, taking into account the inputs sent in writing. We should therefore expect the text to change again.

One of the most contentious points is certainly the famous “phase-out”, that is the abandonment of fossil fuels. The term currently finds space in the draft, which asks the Parties to take actions in this critical decade that must lead to an “orderly and just” abandonment of fossils, according to the first option. The second option, much milder, instead talks about accelerating efforts to abandon fossils whose emissions are not compensated (unabated), thus including a loophole.

It is noteworthy that the phase-out finds space in both options, even though some timelines are not (yet) mentioned. However, there is also a third option on the table that involves eliminating this point entirely. Unfortunately, the latter seems the most likely, given the resistance of several countries.

In particular, Saudi Arabia and Russia (with Vladimir Putin visiting the Emirates on December 6th) continue to reiterate that the stocktake must not include any prescriptive language – therefore no specific target, for example, on the reduction of emissions or the type of energy source or sector – as the measures to be adopted at a national level are the exclusive responsibility of the individual country. Even large emerging economies, China and India, are reluctant to include phase-out language, underscoring the importance of fossil fuels to ensure energy security while the transition is underway.

Another source of tension is, again predictably, finance. Wealthier countries, especially the United States, continue to oppose language that specifically highlights the obligation of traditionally developed countries to provide financial support. Emerging economies, on the other hand, are pushing for greater reference to the “means of implementation”, the set of financial resources, technology transfers and capacity building that developing countries need to implement mitigation measures and adaptation.

Another significant element that we find in the draft is also the mention of human rights, which occurs several times in the text. In fact, in the preamble, reference is made to respect for human rights, the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, the right to health, the rights of indigenous populations, local communities, migrants, young people, people with disabilities and in vulnerable situations, gender equality and intergenerational equity. Furthermore, an option of the general considerations notes how an inclusive and human rights-based approach fosters climate action. However, these references have raised the eyebrows of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, which will likely continue to oppose their inclusion in the final text.

At the end of the first week and without a real effective text to start from, the concern of various Parties such as the least developed countries, as well as of civil society, is that this delay in the technical phase will slow down the entire process. Ministers and delegations will in fact have only five days to negotiate, although it is likely that the conference will also be extended by at least one day this time. Every minute is precious, because the containment of average global temperatures within 1.5°C depends on the results of this assessment and, with it, the preservation of the planet and the lives of many people.

Article by Teresa Giuffrè, Italian Climate Network Delegate at COP28

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