18 Sep 2023

Explainer Series | Key findings from the UN’s Global Stocktake ahead of COP28

Posted in: Environmental news

Key findings from the UN’s Global Stocktake ahead of COP28

As COP28 approaches, the 200 countries in attendance will want to know: are we doing enough to stop climate change?

The answer lies in the first Global Stocktake of information collected since 2021 and published by the UN Climate Change in a summary report released this month.

What is the UN’s Global Stocktake (GST)?

The UN Climate Change describes the global stocktake as a process that allows nations and other entities to check their shared progress in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement's targets. Think of it as a climate check-in. This process evaluates the global stance on climate efforts, spots the areas needing attention, and collaboratively plots the next steps for enhanced action. This review happens every five years, with the first one wrapping up at this year's UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).

After attending COP 27 last year and ahead of attending COP 28 this year, our Head of Science and Advisory, Belinda Mathers has read through the 46 pages of full text to provide the key findings below.

It won’t come as a surprise if you follow the latest science, the warning from the IPCC AR6 report is that the pace and scale of global action is insufficient to tackle climate change.


Key finding 1: There is broad global commitment to the Paris Agreement and its central role in catalysing the cooperative action needed to address the climate crisis, yet the world is not on track to meet the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Now is the time to rapidly accelerate action and support to make progress in this critical decade.

Key finding 2: to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, governments need to support systems transformations that mainstream climate resilience and low GHG emissions development. Credible, accountable and transparent actions by non-Party stakeholders are needed to strengthen efforts for systems transformations. The implementation of pledges and actions by non-Party stakeholders such as business strengthens efforts to support systems transformations but there are constraints including poverty, inequity and injustice; economic, institutional, social and capacity barriers; siloed responses; lack of finance, and barriers to finance and technology. Rigorous accounting and accountability are needed to lend credence to their contributions, track progress with environmental integrity and avoid double counting.

Key finding 3: Carefully designed climate action can generate significant benefits and can help to minimize disruptions by taking a whole-of-society approach informed by local context. Deliberate action to move to renewables is needed - lifetime emissions from existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure will exceed estimates for keeping limiting global warming to 1.5 °C within reach, yet reaching net zero CO2 emissions by mid-century will require a transformation of energy systems to clean energy sources.

Mitigation, including response measures

Key finding 4: Global GHG emissions need to peak between 2020 and 2025 to limit warming to the Paris Agreement temperature goal (1.5 deg C). Emissions have peaked in developed and some developing countries, but global emissions have not yet peaked. All Parties need to undertake rapid and deep reductions in GHG emissions in the decades after peaking.

Key finding 5: Urgent action and support are needed to ramp up implementation of domestic mitigation measures by realizing opportunities across all sectors and systems. There are now sufficient cost-effective opportunities to address the 2030 emissions gap, yet significant challenges remain in harnessing these opportunities at the required pace and scale. The sustainable development benefits of implementing mitigation measures are very important in broadening and deepening these measures, in particular when they also address poverty eradication.

Key finding 6: achieving net zero CO2 and GHG emissions requires systems transformations across all sectors and contexts, including scaling up renewable energy while phasing out all unabated fossil fuels, ending deforestation, reducing non-CO2 emissions and implementing both supply- and demand-side measures. Scaling up renewable energy and phasing out all unabated fossil fuels are indispensable elements of just energy transitions to net zero emissions.

Many mitigation actions can have co-benefits and help to achieve SDGs. Rapid reductions of non-CO2 GHG emissions would lower temperatures in the near term relative to scenarios with higher non-CO2 GHG emissions and reduce the level of peak warming.

Key finding 7: Given the scale of changes, all countries face potential challenges and opportunities. Just transitions can support more robust and equitable mitigation outcomes, with tailored approaches addressing different contexts.

Key finding 8: economic diversification is a key strategy to address the impacts of response measures, with various options that can be applied in different contexts. Economic diversification is one of the strategies to address negative impacts of response measures and promote positive synergies. Global job creation resulting from just energy transitions will potentially be 3.5 times greater than job losses by 2030. Opportunities for such diversification include green industrialization, the greening of supply chains and diversifying to related and unrelated products.

Adaptation, including loss and damage

Key finding 9: as climate change threatens all countries, communities and people around the world, increased adaptation action as well as enhanced efforts to avert, minimize and address loss and damage are urgently needed to reduce and respond to increasing impacts, particularly for those who are least prepared for change and least able to recover from disasters. Collective progress on adaptation and loss and damage must undergo a step change in fulfilling the ambition set out in the Paris Agreement. There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. Adaptation is the responsibility of all governments, at all levels, yet capacity to recover is undermined by repeated extreme climate events.

Key finding 10: Adaptation planning is the first step to enable moving swiftly from understanding risks to more ambitious and effective adaptation action and support, the implementation of which must now be. Both governments and businesses need to put in place durable, long-term reforms that integrate climate change risks into all aspects of planning, decision-making and implementation. Transparent reporting on adaptation can facilitate and enhance understanding, implementation and international cooperation.

Key finding 11: Transformational approaches to adaptation generate new options for adapting to the impacts and risks of climate change by changing the fundamental attributes of systems. Partnerships with traditionally marginalized groups, including women, youth, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and ethnic and other minority groups, are vitally important. There are opportunities for adaptation across systems and sectors, many of which have been mainstreamed into existing development priorities and processes. A fundamental starting point for enhanced adaptation action is the dissemination of climate information through climate services to meet local needs and priorities.

Key finding 12: Limiting warming to the Paris Agreement global temperature goal would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change compared with higher warming levels. Some impacts will be irreversible as temperatures increase beyond 1.5 °C. Greater understanding is needed of how to avoid and respond to tipping points and more knowledge, understanding, support, policy and action are needed to comprehensively manage risks and avert, minimize and address loss and damage.

Key finding 13: support for adaptation and funding arrangements for averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage need to be rapidly scaled up from expanded and innovative sources, and financial flows need to be made consistent with climate-resilient development to meet urgent and increasing needs.

Means of implementation and support and finance flows

Key finding 14: Climate finance from developed to developing countries has increased since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, but accelerated action is required to scale up climate finance (image 1). Public finance alone is not sufficient to address the gap between financing needs and current finance flows, particularly in developing countries. Access to climate finance in developing countries needs to be enhanced. Directing climate finance towards meaningful activities and continuing to strengthen monitoring, evaluation, and learning can more effectively meet needs, particularly in developing countries.

Poster from UN Climate Action graphic resources

Image 1: Poster from UN Climate Action graphic resources. This one emphasises the climate monetary inequality.

Key finding 15: While public finance will continue to have a key role to play in financing adaptation, increased private sector engagement is needed to make financial flows consistent with climate-resilient development. Opportunities for financing mitigation and adaptation can be enhanced by enabling conditions and overcoming constraints. Further actions are required to mitigate risks, lower investment costs, and enhance access. It is essential to unlock and redeploy trillions of dollars to meet global investment needs. Significant finance flows continue being directed, including through subsidies, towards investments in high-emissions activities and infrastructure that lack resilience. Shifting these flows is critical to making rapid and durable progress towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

Key finding 16: Existing cleaner technologies need to be rapidly deployed, together with accelerated innovation, development and transfer of new technologies, to support the needs of developing countries. More effective and strategic international cooperation on technology development and transfer and innovation would enable rapid systems transformations that are aligned with achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Reductions in costs and increased access to finance for some key technologies should enable greater deployment in all geographic areas, particularly in developing countries. Collaborative approaches to climate technology research, development and demonstration are crucial for deploying mature climate technologies and developing emerging technologies on a large scale

Key finding 17: capacity-building is foundational to achieving broad-ranging and sustained climate action and requires effective country-led and needs-based cooperation to ensure capacities are enhanced and retained over time at all levels.

So, what should business be doing differently?

Much of the focus of the Technical Dialogue appears most relevant to ‘Parties’ (governments), but there are some important takeaways for business too, particularly in key finding 6.

  • Achieving net zero CO2 emissions globally by mid-century requires radical decarbonization of all sectors of the economy, as countries design and implement systems transformations.
  • Many mitigation actions can have co-benefits and help achieve SDGs. Developmental benefits of mitigation actions include significant benefits, for example through health benefits from lowered air pollution, energy access for underserved populations and jobs created.
  • Net zero CO2 energy systems require the phasing out of all unabated fossil fuels over time, rapid scaling up of renewable energy, widespread electrification of end uses, use of clean fuels, including low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia, solutions for applications that are more challenging to electrify, and boosting energy efficiency gains and demand-side management.
  • Reaching net zero emissions also requires curbing deforestation and protecting natural terrestrial and ocean-based sinks, restoring deforested and degraded lands, sustainably managing land, and shifting agricultural and food systems.
  • Energy system mitigation measures could account for 74 % of total global mitigation in reaching net zero GHG emissions. In many cases renewable generation is now more cost effective than fossil fuel generation
  • Measures to implement systems transformations in industry, transport, buildings and other sectors must rapidly reduce process and energy emissions. Reducing industrial emissions, which make up about 25 % of global emissions, will require demand management, significantly increasing energy efficiency gains across all sectors, electrification, innovation in hard-to-abate subsectors, greater circularity and attention to emissions across supply chains. Ambitious implementation of such measures can also save costs and deliver co-benefits.
  • Transportation currently contributes about 15 % of global GHG emissions. Phasing out internal combustion engines and using electric vehicles offer the greatest mitigation potential in the sector. In addition, demand-side interventions, such as shifting transport modes (e.g. to walking and using public transport), will be essential in the context of rethinking mobility. Rapidly reducing emissions from international shipping, aviation and freight transportation will require more effective international cooperation on sustainable fuels, energy-efficient design, data analytics and other solutions.
  • Energy efficiency and demand-side management remain important ways of reducing emissions, often with cost savings over short payback periods. Energy conservation also deserves continued attention, especially in contexts with high energy consumption. Energy storage technologies and demand-side measures can help stabilize variability in renewable energy.
  • Mitigation measures by non-Party stakeholders will be an important factor for success in achieving the Paris Agreement goals. While pledges for mitigation actions and relevant international cooperation by non-Party stakeholders have accelerated significantly in response to the Paris Agreement, efforts are still far from being pledged or implemented at the level needed.