In anticipation of COP28, the United Nations has released a report on the progress towards the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. The report found that global action on climate change is not on track to meet net-zero by 2050.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement, also known as the Paris Agreement or Paris Accords, is a multinational treaty focused on mitigating climate change. Drafted in 2015, and initially signed in 2016, the agreement was originally signed by 175 countries and the European Union. That number has since grown to 195. The United States originally signed in 2016 under President Barack Obama, but President Donald Trump rescinded membership in November 2020. The US rejoined under President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.
Article 14 of the Agreement calls for the members to “periodically take stock of the implementation of this Agreement to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of this Agreement and its long-term goals (referred to as the ‘global stocktake).”
The stocktake takes place every five years, with the first to be presented at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly called COP28. The stocktake was conducted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UNFCCC describes it as “like taking inventory. It means looking at everything related to where the world stands on climate action and support, identifying the gaps, and working together to chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action.”
The drafting of the stocktake, called a technical dialogue, began in 2022, under the helm of two co-facilitators – Harold Winkler, a professor at University of Cape Town, with research focused on expertise in mitigation, poverty and inequality and Farhan Akhtar, the chief scientist for climate change at the U.S. Department of State.
While the final version of the report will not be made available until COP28 takes place in Dubai from November 30 – December 12, an advance distribution version was officially released on September 8. An accompanying webinar presentation was made September 12.
The report found 17 key findings, all leading to the conclusion that more action must be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change and meet the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Those findings are summarized at the end of this article.
The findings will most likely drive the debate and outcome of COP28. I expect a particular focus on climate financing, or how climate change initiatives are funded by governments and in the private sector. To avoid greenwashing, the standardization of sustainability reporting and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting will be praised and encouraged. There will also be a focus on the implementation of stricter greenhouse gas (GHG) standards by countries, a continued focus on the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies, and resiliency efforts for existing development. Terms like equity, equality, just transition, and economic diversification will be mixed into the discussion.
Overall, there will be an increased sense of urgency if the net-zero by 2050 goal is to be obtainable. Currently, those goals are not being met.
The 17 key findings are broadly summarized below.
Key Finding 1: The Paris Agreement has driven global climate change action through goals, but countries must rapidly accelerate action and support.
Key Finding 2: Governments need to create policies to support systems transformations that mainstream climate resilience and low GHG emissions development in the private sector.
Key Finding 3: To help facilitate reaching the goals, there should be a focus on inclusion and equity.
Key Finding 4: Global emissions have not been reduced enough to meet the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5ᵒ C by 2030. To meet the goal, emissions needed to peak sometime between 2020 and 2025, but they are still climbing.
Key Finding 5: In order to reduce global GHG emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, by 60 per cent by 2035, and to net-zero by 2050, countries need to aggressively focus on domestic mitigation efforts through policymaking. This includes “absolute economy-wide emission reduction targets.”
Key Finding 6: To meet the goals, countries need to scale up renewable energy, while scaling back fossil fuels and ending deforestation.
Key Finding 7: To ensure equity and equality in the impact of climate change actions, countries should adopt “just transition principles” to address concerns.
Key Finding 8: To offset the negative impacts of climate change policies, there should be a focus on economic diversification to create decent work and quality jobs and protect the communities that depend on them.
Key Finding 9: Existing infrastructure must be adapted to address the impacts of climate change, specifically as it relates to extreme weather conditions. This is also known as resilience or adaption planning.
Key Finding 10: To accelerate resiliency efforts, governments should mandate durable, long-term reforms that integrate climate change risks into all aspects of planning, decision-making and implementation.
Key Finding 11: While the Paris Agreement is focused on international agreement, reforms are best implemented at the local level. To effect local change, partnerships should be made with communities, local authorities, civil society and businesses.
Key Finding 12: While the net-zero target will reduce the impacts of climate change, there will continue to be loss and damage that are not fully realized. The report calls for additional funding for scientific and policy making studies to better understand and prevent those impacts.
Key Finding 13: There needs to be a rapid increase in funding made available for resiliency and green projects. Additionally, private funding sources need to be diverted from actions that are not climate friendly to projects that work towards climate resiliency.
Key Finding 14: Climate finance resources need to be increased in developing countries, and efforts need to be made to help developing countries service their existing debt to pay for resiliency action.
Key Finding 15: In order to fund net-zero initiatives, trillions of dollars must be made available through redesignation of existing priorities and shifting cash flows. To avoid greenwashing of those funds by private entities, sustainability reporting standards should be implemented. These are commonly called environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards.
Key Finding 16: To further exist developing countries towards net-zero, existing cleaner technologies need to be implemented in those countries and new technologies need to be developed.
Key Finding 17: The ability to act towards net-zero is limited by the capacity of the entities involved to address the needed changes. There needs to be a focus on capacity building needs to occur in all areas to allow more energies to be focused on climate change.