The 27th Conference of Parties has concluded, but many agenda issues will require
focused, meaningful, and ambitious resolutions. If this were an implementation COP, the following one in 2023 would focus on Global Stock Take or GST. What have governments done, have they matched words with deeds, and are we on pace to limit global warming to 1.5°C?
This essential process was already in motion during COP27, which held the GST’s second Technical Dialogue, which focused on “how” to reduce emissions rather than “what” to do to mitigate emissions, with an emphasis on implementable solutions. According to Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, GST is a mechanism that takes stock of the Agreement’s implementation and evaluates collective progress toward its aim of staying well below 1.5°C. The first-ever GST will expire next year, and we must better grasp its purpose and limits. The successful stocktake process will ensure that nations understand the gap between their pledges and the 1.5°C pathway and will encourage them to enhance their objectives.
How does GST work?
The formal GST is a two-year-long process that will happen every five years, intending to raise ambition among parties in light of equity and the best available knowledge. It will go through three stages: information gathering, technical evaluation, and output evaluation. The technical phase is now underway, and the GST process will focus on mitigation, including reaction measures, adaptation, including loss and damage, and methods of implementation and support, as well as targeted talks on system transformation (energy, transport, industry, agriculture, health, land, water, and urban). Although the GST procedure takes into account many inputs, there are significant gaps in the official process.
The GST focuses on techno-economic metrics relating to a variety of topics such as carbon reduction, financing, and so on. Many sociocultural elements, however, are important for reaching these high-level quantifiable goals. It is vital to understand progress on these socioeconomic elements in an organized manner. Taking stock of developments in political economy and its various dimensions, for example, concerns connected to fairness and just energy transitions is crucial. Some Indian states, for example, rely on coal for revenue, making transformation impossible without taking the political economy into account.
With the carbon budget falling at an unprecedented rate, the GST process every five years will have a very narrow window to enhance ambition on time so that we do not exhaust the 500 GtCO2 remaining carbon budget to stay below 1.5°C. Finally, because the GST will measure collective progress and action, historic emitter nations can hide behind ‘collective’ progress and avoid taking responsibility for their emissions and raising ambition.
How GST can assist
For the Global Stock Take to be a success next year, the independent research community must step up and supplement the formal GST process. One such endeavor is the current independent global stocktake (GST), a partnership of civil society groups. Because of its independence and intellectual rigor, the GST may supplement the GST process with research on various elements of rising goals.
A new working paper produced under the auspices of GST by academics at the University of Maryland (UMD) and the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) emphasizes five issues relevant to taking stock of progress on the underlying political economy for speeding mitigation activities. These are national aspiration, institutional frameworks, stakeholders and interests, policy efficacy, and public opinion. It also provides possible indicators for tracking progress on each of them.
Similarly, work is being done to assess skills for participating in the mitigation discussion and implementing ambitious steps. All of these are important motivators for social action, but they are absent from the official GST process. A global and independent civil society-driven forum can be used to share best practices and the best available knowledge, in addition to addressing knowledge gaps. The GST can research contentious issues and provide additional information to improve the transparency, accuracy, and accountability of the official process.
The upcoming COP28 presidency should explicitly recognize the significance of a worldwide civil society-led independent stocktake process. The moment has come to advance this agenda so that political leaders, negotiators, and other stakeholders have a lot more important information during the stock take’ COP next year.