The first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement will be fully set in motion at COP26 in November 2021 and will conclude in 2023, marking the first formal collective assessment of progress toward the Agreement’s long-term climate goals.
As the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) approaches, over 100 parties are preparing long-term low-greenhouse gas emission development strategies, known as long-term strategies. An additional 33 parties, representing 44 countries, have already submitted long-term strategies to the UNFCCC, some of which may be updated by COP26. These strategies are central to keeping the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C within reach. They also reveal the necessary scale and pace of climate action to keep in line with global ambition and play a key role in guiding near-term action as shown in a recent WRI paper.
In the information collection and preparation phase of the global stocktake, which will be initiated by COP26, long-term strategies should be considered as critical inputs because they are essential for understanding progress toward the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals.
How do Long-Term Strategies Relate to the Global Stocktake?
The objective of the global stocktake is to assess collective advancement toward the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. This assessment should inform parties’ efforts to update and enhance their action and mutual support over time. Much of the information already designated as sources of input for the global stocktake relates to action already underway, such as the effect of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the state of adaptation, finance flows and best practices.
While these inputs play an essential role, a collective assessment will not be comprehensive if it does not consider progress on overall ambition toward achieving long-term goals. Although not mandatory under the Paris Agreement, long-term strategies are a key means through which parties can explore long-term individual pathways to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. The collective assessment of these strategies is a reference point to gauge both the alignment of global long-term ambition with Paris Agreement goals and potential areas for improvement going forward.
How Can the Global Stocktake Process Benefit from Long-Term Strategies?
The global stocktake process will be made up of three phases, each of which would be enriched by consideration of long-term strategies:
1. Information Collection and Preparation
The COP24 Katowice decision set general guidelines for the global stocktake. These guidelines designate long-term strategies as an input during information collection and are being added to the global stocktake input portal. However, there is not clarity on what information from long-term strategies should be included or a requirement for how they should be utilized.
At COP26, the co-facilitators and parties should further specify which information from long-term strategies could be used as inputs. Specifically, a review of parties’ quantified mid-century targets and associated milestones from long-term strategies could be captured in the Secretariat’s synthesis report to help ensure that the stocktake considers progress on long-term collective ambition. Long-term sectoral strategies, especially to the extent that they include sectoral targets, are another crucial input toward a successful plan for decarbonization. These details could be clarified by the chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB) through either guiding questions or elaborating the list of input sources.
2. Technical Assessment
Similarly, co-facilitators of the technical dialogue and the SB chairs at COP26 can consider incorporating aspects of long-term strategies into the discussions as part of the technical assessment phase. For example, this could be done by evaluating of how midcentury targets collectively contribute to long-term temperature goals. Or, detailing how long-term strategy can be used to assess alignment between the collective trajectory of NDCs in the near-term and cumulative global ambition in the long-term. Another useful discussion topic would be lessons and experiences on how parties’ long-term strategies shaped and informed near-term implementation.
3. High-level Consideration of Outputs
The inclusion of inputs from long-term strategies and their consideration/inclusion in the technical assessment can also support the high-level consideration of outputs. By assessing long-term collective ambition, sectoral pathways and targets, and by synthesizing lessons and experiences in long-term planning, the global stocktake can provide a roadmap between current progress and the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Given subsequent NDCs will be informed by the findings of the global stocktake, a collective review of progress related to long-term strategies can sharpen understanding of how the mitigation ambition of NDCs will need to evolve over time. This will ensure that future NDCs align with long-term goals.
Given that some parties are unlikely to finish their long-term strategies before the information collection phase begins, a collective review may not be comprehensive during the upcoming global stocktake. However, including the long-term strategies that are available will encourage the remaining parties to submit long-term strategies and set the expectation that updated NDCs should align with long-term strategies going forward.
2023 Global Stocktake
Consideration of Outputs
Parties with long-term strategy submissions
Provide key lessons and experiences, mid-century targets, and sectoral strategies
Measure progress and use key lessons and experieces to highlight best practice
Update subsequent NDCs and long-term strategies informed by the global stocktake
Parties without long-term strategy submissions
Provide key lessons and experiences (with a focus on barriers to submission)
Use key lessons and experiences to identify needed support; work with other Parties to develop solutions
Develop long-term strategies using best practice, applying solutions, and with support
How Can Parties’ Long-Term Strategies Benefit From a Successful Global Stocktake?
Parties are expected to use the knowledge and information generated from the global stocktake to update and enhance their climate efforts. The process could also inform new or revised long-term strategies. The shape and pace of necessary transformational change will depend on the progress of implementation. As a result, parties may need to make even more drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than what is expressed in current long-term strategies. New insights on parties’ experiences and lessons, changes in sectoral pathways and global technological shifts may also indicate the need for parties to update their long-term strategies or prepare new ones.
To date, only 10 developing countries have prepared and submitted long-term strategies. Given the notable benefits of developing long-term strategies, the global stocktake is also an opportunity to explore the barriers faced by developing country parties in preparing long-term strategies and consider solutions.
Developing a Strong Global Stocktake
Parties at COP26 should push to integrate key insights on collective ambition, lessons and experiences from long-term strategies into each phase of the 2023 global stocktake process. This would strengthen all three phases, provide a reflection on current practice and create further guidance for robust, effective long-term strategies. Critically, organizing and implementing Paris Agreement mechanisms in a mutually reinforcing manner will maximize their impacts, raising collective ability to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.