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Climate

The Global Stocktake Draft Has Something to Make Everyone Mad

The authors are taking some big swings. What makes it to the final draft will be anyone’s guess.

Devastated trees.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

By the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, you’d think we’d have done it all before — but if you did, you’d be wrong. This year, for the first time, negotiators at the conference will produce what’s called a global stocktake report, summarizing the past five years of climate progress and setting the agenda for the next five years and beyond.

The stocktake goes all the way back to the Paris Agreement; if countries have to report on their progress toward meeting their climate goals, the thinking goes, they’ll take the agreement more seriously. This is the closest thing the Paris Agreement has to an enforcement mechanism — naming and shaming — and we’re about to see how well it works.

The stocktake report is more than 18 months in the making, although the first time most of the world may have become aware of it was in September, when the UN released a technical report on how things are going. TL;DR: They’re not going great, an impression further bolstered by another report released just before the start of COP28 in Dubai, which showed that the world is nowhere near meeting its Paris goals.

All that is to say that the authors of the final stocktake report, due at the conclusion of the conference, have a high bar to clear. Drafts of the report that have come out so far offer a window into their thinking — and a sense of how hard their job is. Keeping in mind that none of this language is final and that the report could still change radically between now and its official adoption, here are a few features to highlight:

The most helpful part: If you want a quick summary of the latest climate science, check out the draft’s opening sections, which lean heavily on UN scientific publications from the past two years, including the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report.

The most controversial part: Given the headlines that have come out of COP28 thus far, the future of fossil fuels is likely to draw the most attention in the final text. On that front, the draft lists three options for negotiators — one recommending “an orderly and just phase out of fossil fuels,” one calling for “accelerating efforts towards phasing out unabated fossil fuels,” and one … saying nothing at all.

The most on-theme part: The same section of the report also has optional language around tripling renewables capacity, phasing out coal, and getting rid of “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. A couple paragraphs later, there’s an optional section calling for parties to the Paris Agreement to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 and 40% by 2035. Again, whether any of this winds up in the final agreement is a big unknown. But if those methane targets make it into the final version, it’ll mark a substantial expansion of the Global Methane Pledge first launched at COP26.

The most David-and-Goliath part: The adaptation section of the draft seems like it’s been heavily influenced by the Bridgetown Initiative crew.

To take a step back for a second: The Bridgetown Initiative is named after the capital city of Barbados, is championed by the island’s prime minister, Mia Mottley, and calls for rich countries to throw far more support to the most vulnerable nations using various forms of international financing, from World Bank programs to mobilizing private investment.

A lot of those ideas made their way into this draft. For instance, it has an optional paragraph that proposes a doubling of international adaptation financing and a variety of options calling for more grants and other financing mechanisms that won’t add to developing countries’ already groaning debt burdens. On the subtler side of things, one revision from an earlier draft throws the word “highly” in front of verbiage calling current climate finance efforts “insufficient to respond to worsening climate change impacts” in developing countries.

The trendiest part: COP28 has thrown its arms around AI. One section of the latest draft bids welcome to what’s called the Technology Mechanism on Artificial Intelligence for Climate Action, “which explores the role of artificial intelligence as potentially powerful tools for advancing and scaling up transformative adaptation and mitigation actions,” with a focus on developing countries.

What’s not in this draft: much of anything about carbon pricing. The notion of monetary penalties for climate-polluting appears just a few times in the draft’s 24 pages, and all in optional sections. The word “offset” doesn’t appear at all.

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Jillian Goodman

Jillian is Heatmap's deputy editor. Before that, she was opinion editor at The Information and deputy editor at Bloomberg Green.

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