Differences remain on Global Stocktake outcomes

What stands out ultimately is the lack of commitment from any major bloc to definitively lead the fossil fuel transition

At the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai last year, the headline issue of Global Stocktake (GST) ended in a historic call on countries to transition away from fossil fuels. 

GST is a periodic assessment of countries’ progress towards the goal of the Paris Agreement, with the first one ending in 2023. One of the many agreements following its culmination was to have an Annual GST Dialogue, where countries could discuss their progress on implementing GST outcomes and the challenges they face in doing so. 

At the Bonn Climate Conference last week, the first ever Annual GST Dialogue took place over two days with three roundtables. This comes at a crucial time, given that most countries are in the process of improving their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) by early 2025. One mandate of GST directed countries to enhance their NDCs with the guidance of GST outcomes, covering elements of mitigation adaptation and loss and damage. 

While most interventions by countries acknowledged the fact that GST covered key issues in its outcomes, two key outstanding goals emerged: Energy transition and climate finance. 

Moving away from fossil fuels

Energy transition was enshrined in paragraph 28 of the final GST outcome, where countries were called to transition away from fossil fuels with multiple suggested steps.

Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries, stressed that paragraph 28 cannot be interpreted as a prescriptive measure but rather a “menu that takes into consideration common but differentiated responsibilities”. Earlier this year, a minister from Saudi Arabia claimed that paragraph 28 is an “a-la-carte” menu, making this the second such reference from the country. 

China aligned with Saudi Arabia’s comments and Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, mentioned that para 28 must not be a top-down approach. However, Qatar also mentioned that concrete steps towards para 28 need to be visible, specifically from the developed countries who must take the lead in terms of equity. 

Among other developing countries, South Africa said they will “read para 28 but look at the full mitigation part”. This essentially means seeing para 28 in line with equitable distribution of the remaining Global Carbon Budget to meet the Paris Agreement goal. 

Ghana, on behalf of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), mentioned that there is a need for more investment in natural gas infrastructure, given that gas is a transition fuel and that the production must stop from developed countries with developing countries filling the gap. 

The developed country interventions did not specifically highlight para 28, although most including the European Union, Canada, Norway, Australia and the United States mentioned they are enhancing their NDCs in line with GST outcomes. What stands out ultimately is the lack of commitment from any major bloc to definitively lead the fossil fuel transition. The only exception being Colombia, who said they have cancelled all fossil fuel explorations after joining the Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty. 

Climate finance remains key challenge

AGN, Least Developed Countries, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), among other individual developing country interventions, also stressed the need for better climate finance. In fact, in the roundtable focussed on challenges in implementing GST and enhancing NDCs, the top challenge cited by every developing country was the inability to access timely, grant-based finance. Even Colombia, when iterating their divestment from fossil fuels, highlighted that such a move makes finance all the more necessary for the country to sustain low-carbon development. 

With negotiations on the New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance underway and set to be the headline issue at COP29, finance remains key to countries constructively implementing the GST in their plans. 

Debates continue in closed-door negotiations

As the Annual GST Dialogue took place, negotiations on the GST continued at Bonn. A key debate emerged in these closed sessions over paragraphs 97 and 98 of the GST and whether these paragraphs refer only to the need for more finance or the GST outcomes as a whole. The para 97 in question states the decision “to establish the xx dialogue on implementing the global stocktake outcomes”. This was formally named the “UAE Dialogue”. Subsequent para 98 details that the first UAE dialogue will begin at COP29 with its modalities to be discussed at Bonn in 2024.

Both the paragraphs are enshrined under the “finance” header of the final GST text, leading to Global South countries and negotiating blocs to unequivocally say that the dialogue has to be focussed on the provision of finance. Developed country groups, on the other hand, stressed that the UAE Dialogue must take into consideration all the GST outcomes, which would mean the enhancement of NDCs and the energy transition.

It must be noted here that the UAE Dialogue and the Annual GST Dialogue are separate tracks. This very point was highlighted by Brazil, who said that there must not be a replication and that there would be an ultimate merging of the two tracks down the line. 

Negotiations on the dialogue and its goals will resume in the second week of the conference. How these differences will play out and ultimately translate into the new NDCs remains to be seen.

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