The formal Global Stock Take (GST) is a two-year-long process that will happen every five years, with the aim of raising ambition among parties in light of equity and the best available knowledge. It will pass through three phases — an information collection phase, a technical assessment phase and a consideration on the output phase.
The 27th Conference of Parties is over, but many agenda items will need focused, relevant and ambitious closure. If this were an implementation COP, the next one in 2023 would focus on Global Stock Take or GST. What have countries done, have they matched words with actions, are we on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C?
This critical process was already underway at COP27, which hosted the second Technical Dialogue of the GST, focusing on “how” to mitigate emissions versus “what” to do to mitigate emissions focused on implementable solutions. Under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, GST is a process to take stock of the implementation of the Agreement and evaluate the collective progress towards its goals of remaining well below 1.5°C. The first-ever GST will end next year, and we need to understand its role and limitations better. The successful stocktake process will ensure countries understand the gap between their commitments and the 1.5°C pathway and raise their ambitions.
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 pass through three phases — an information collection phase, a technical assessment phase and a consideration of the output phase. Currently, the technical phase is underway, and the GST process will deliberate on mitigation, including response measures, adaptation including loss and damage, and means of implementation and support, along with focused discussions on systems transformation (energy, transport, industry, agriculture, health, land, water, and urban). Although the GST process considers multiple inputs, there are major gaps in the formal process.
The GST focuses on techno-economic indicators related to various aspects such as emissions mitigation, finance, etc. There are, however, many societal factors that are critical for achieving these high-level quantified goals. Understanding progress on these societal factors in a structured way is critical. For example, taking stock of progress in political economy and its multiple dimensions or issues related to equity and just energy transitions is critical. For example, some states in India are coal-dependent for their revenues and because of this, their transition will be difficult without considering the political economy.
With the carbon budget shrinking annually at a record rate, the GST process every five years will have a very limited window to raise ambition on time so that we don’t exhaust the 500 GtCO2 remaining carbon budget to remain below 1.5°C. Finally, because the GST will track collective progress and action, historic emitter countries can hide behind ‘collective’ progress and not take responsibility for their emissions and raise ambition.
For the Global Stock take to succeed next year, the independent research community must step up and complement the formal GST process. The existing independent global stocktake (iGST), a consortium of civil society actors, is one such initiative. Because of its independence and intellectual rigour, the iGST can complement the GST process with research on many aspects of raising ambitions.
A recent working paper by researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), published within the aegis of iGST, highlights five aspects related to taking stock of progress on underlying political economy for accelerating mitigation actions. These are — national ambition, institutional arrangements, stakeholders and interests, policy effectiveness, and public opinion. It also presents potential indicators for measuring progress on each of these.
Similarly, work on measuring capabilities to engage in the mitigation debate and implement ambitious actions is underway. All these are crucial drivers for societal actions but are missing in the formal GST process. Along with addressing knowledge gaps, a global and independent civil society-driven forum can be used to share good practices and the best available knowledge. The iGST can conduct research on friction topics and provide supplementary information so that the official process's transparency, accuracy, and accountability are enhanced.
The incoming COP28 presidency should formally recognise the importance of a global civil society-driven independent stocktake process. The time is right to push this agenda so that political leaders, negotiators and other stakeholders have a lot more meaningful information at their hands at the ‘stock take’ COP next year.
Pallavi Das is a Programme Associate and Dr Vaibhav Chaturvedi is a Fellow at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), an independent, not-for-profit policy research institution