COP28 marks the culmination of the first-ever Global Stocktake, a critically important element of the Paris Agreement that is required to take place every five years.
What is the Global Stocktake? Well, it’s a process for helping countries to assess the progress they have made in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. This includes action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to minimise global temperature increases, and progress in adapting to the impacts of climate change that are already starting to occur. Bearing these factors in mind, it’s easy to see why the Global Stocktake is so important as it should help set the direction of travel for the world over the coming years as we attempt to “keep 1.5°C alive”.
Elements of the Global Stocktake have already been published – in particular, the Stocktake’s synthesis report makes it clear that current decarbonisation efforts are nowhere near enough to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. Consequently, the COP28 negotiations will need to have an urgent focus on countries setting more ambitious GHG reduction targets for 2030 and 2035 if we are to have any hope of achieving global net zero emissions by 2050. At Ricardo, we have supported numerous countries in developing and monitoring their existing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – a mandatory requirement of the Paris Agreement for each signatory country, setting out their national-level plans for reducing GHG emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Our experience highlights that the desire is usually there to tackle the problem, but tangible action on the ground isn’t happening quickly enough. And the later we act to reduce emissions, the more likely we are to overshoot the 1.5°C temperature target before 2050. This will potentially have consequences for the world’s climate and environment that are not yet fully understood, particularly in terms of our ability to then bring global temperature rise back down below 1.5°C by the middle of the century. Many are already saying that keeping below 1.5°C is simply no longer possible.
The Global Stocktake highlights that all sectors of the economy need to rapidly scale up the deployment of GHG reduction measures. We won’t go into detail on each sector here as the measures for achieving the required reductions in transport, industry, buildings and the power sector are well known, even if all of the technologies needed are not yet commercially available and cost-effective at scale compared to incumbent solutions. And the key enablers for decarbonising all of these sectors include massively scaling up the supply of green electricity and dramatically improving energy efficiency in each sector. Instead, let’s focus on a couple of areas that are growing in importance, such as the need to stop global deforestation and tackle emissions from the agricultural sector. Ricardo is embarking on an ambitious support programme funded by the UK Government that will provide support for up to 15 countries around the world to tackle the problem of deforestation and forest degradation. We see emissions from deforestation as well as from agriculture and land use as major threats to the world’s climate; these are challenging problems to solve and we hope that COP28 places sufficient emphasis on addressing these issues head on.
Finally, because we are not on track to stay within 1.5°C, we hope that COP28 will have a heavy emphasis on scaling up support for adaptation, loss and damage. With each passing year that we fail to keep to emission reduction targets, we are locking in ever greater climate impacts that will affect each country in different ways. At Ricardo, we have been supporting all EU Member States with elements of their adaptation strategies as well as supporting other countries around the world to assess their climate-related vulnerabilities and risks. The costs of addressing these vulnerabilities and risks are huge and hence the calls for greater action in these areas and for ensuring that there is a balance between support for GHG reductions and support for adaptation will only get louder. Let’s hope that the first Global Stocktake and COP28 start to redress this imbalance by placing more of the spotlight on tackling the world’s current and future adaptation needs.
Over the coming days and weeks, our team of climate change, agriculture, energy and sustainability experts will delve into key topics of concern relating to the climate crisis, and what needs to happen now to enable progress in the future. See our latest news section for updates.