First draft of Cop28 global stocktake hints at tough talks ahead

Negotiating document leaves options open on key fossil fuel debate

While world leaders pose for photos at Cop28, negotiations on the global stocktake are beginning in the background. AFP
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Cop28 has begun work on one of its central tasks: delivering a verdict on global climate policy that must be agreed by almost 200 countries.

A first working draft was circulated on Friday of the first “global stocktake”, which will set out how close we are to limiting global warming to 1.5°C and outline what more needs to be done.

The 12-page text of “building blocks” is a rough starting point for the two weeks of talks in the UAE.

It leaves key issues open and is sure to go through many revisions.

Still, it was welcomed as a useful opening salvo in which “all the ingredients are there”, as countries began giving their first reactions to the text at Dubai’s Expo City.

The draft text for the global stocktake:

· Says that countries are “not collectively on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement”, which set the 1.5°C goal

· Notes with “significant concern” that there is a rapidly narrowing window to take the action needed to keep 1.5°C alive

· Leaves several options open on the table on the key energy debate, including a “phase-down/out [of] fossil fuels” and a “phase-down/out/no new coal”

· Emphasises the importance of protecting nature and ecosystems, while leaving specific calls to action on deforestation, agriculture and oceans for further discussion

· Urges parties to take the GST’s findings into account when they submit their next round of national climate policies, which are due before the Cop30 summit in 2025.

Fossil fuel debate

A verdict that the world is not on track has long been expected, after a September report underpinning the stocktake said “much more action” is still needed.

How to plug those gaps is a much more contentious issue, with differing views expressed on fossil fuels.

With the next stocktake not due until 2028, the talks in Dubai are regarded as a key moment to agree action before it is too late.

At Cop26 in Britain two years ago, a short early draft on “accelerating the phase-out of unabated coal power” turned into a much wordier compromise in which the language was changed to “phase-down” at the last minute.

Still, the fact that fossil fuels were mentioned in Friday’s draft at all was taken as a good sign.

“All the ingredients are there, just have to mix them together in a coherent string of words now,” said Sonia Dunlop, the chief executive of the Global Solar Council.

Simon Evans of energy website Carbon Brief said those pushing to agree language on a phase-out of fossil fuels “will be encouraged to see that explicitly in this first draft”.

“That's already a contrast with Cop27 [in Egypt], where the presidency consistently failed to include fossil fuel phase-out in draft negotiating texts, leaving many countries frustrated.”

Cop28 begins at Dubai's Expo City – in pictures

Analyst Tom Evans from think tank E3G said the draft was a “useful building block for the negotiations”.

“It highlights some areas where there is already convergence, but the most contentious areas aren't written as text just yet – including possible outcomes on renewable energy and fossil fuels, and on unlocking finance for climate action,” he said.

“There's much work ahead for negotiators to unpack this long text further and resolve these political debates.”

Hopes have been raised after a breakthrough on day one of Cop28, when countries agreed a deal on climate-related loss and damage – another key subject that has involved difficult talks.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President and UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said the loss and damage deal “sets a clear ambition for us to agree a comprehensive, ambitious GST decision over the next 12 days”.

Updated: December 01, 2023, 12:46 PM