COP28 is the biggest accountability moment for climate action in history.

For the first time, the UN will conduct a “Global Stocktake,” assessing the world’s collective progress on rapidly reducing emissions, building resilience and directing finance toward climate change solutions. The UN's Global Stocktake synthesis report, released in September 2023, reveals troubling findings: The world is far off track from holding global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), the limit scientists say is necessary for averting some of the worst impacts of climate change.

The most important issue to watch at COP28 is whether leaders from countries, companies and cities respond to the Global Stocktake with decisive action.

The Global Stocktake at COP28

When 193 countries signed on to the Paris Agreement in 2015, they committed to three goals: 1) reduce emissions enough to hold global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F)” above pre-industrial levels, and ideally 1.5 degrees C; 2) build communities’ resilience to the impacts of climate change; and 3) align the world’s financial flows with low-carbon, climate-resilient development.

They also agreed to assess their collective progress toward these goals every five years (beginning in 2023) and strengthen their action in response, a process known as the “Global Stocktake.” The first Global Stocktake will conclude at COP28 in Dubai.

From November 30-December 12, 2023, countries’ climate negotiators and others will discuss the results of the GlobaI Stocktake and identify what’s needed next to confront the climate crisis. For COP28 to be a success, the Stocktake must not just be a moment for reflection, but for response. Leaders from countries, companies and cities should address action gaps with new emissions-reduction plans, climate finance, renewable energy targets and more.

A Rapid Response Plan to the Global Stocktake

While countries should respond to the Global Stocktake with climate solutions across the board, WRI believes it is critical that COP28 drives stronger action in three key areas: fossil fuels, food and land use, and resilience.

1) Rapidly and equitably shift away from fossil fuels.

Research shows that the world needs to reduce emissions 43% below 2019 levels by 2030 to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. Current national climate plans will only achieve a 7% reduction. Meanwhile, subsidies for fossil fuels — the largest driver of climate change — rose to a record $7 trillion in 2022.

At COP28, governments should signal their intent to move away from fossil fuels and usher in an era of affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all.

Specifically, national leaders should commit to at least triple renewable energy capacity to 1,500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, shift investments from dirty to renewable energy, and accelerate energy efficiency. Countries should also commit to make two-thirds of passenger travel fossil-fuel free by 2030 by increasing the share of electric vehicles in global car sales to at least 75% and shifting more trips to public transit and bicycling. These targets are in line with the level of emissions reductions needed to hold global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.

And importantly, leaders must put measures in place to ensure this low-carbon transition leaves no one behind — especially workers and communities reliant on the fossil fuel industry.

    2) Transform food and land use systems and protect and restore forests.

    Our food systems are failing us. More than 800 million people face hunger today. Climate-driven droughts and floods threaten farmers’ crops and livelihoods. And agriculture itself is fueling climate change by destroying forests and other vital ecosystems.

    At COP28, leaders should put forward plans that transform the ways the world produces and consumes food.

    National leaders should invest in improving food security while building resilience to the escalating impacts of climate change. They must heed the science by reducing agricultural emissions 25% below 2020 levels by 2030, while also accelerating efforts to halve food waste by 2030 and shift to healthier, lower-carbon diets. Espousing these and other plans in a Food Systems Declaration, expected to emerge by the end of COP28, will help cement governments’ commitments to a sustainable food future.

    Furthermore, leaders should demonstrate progress on existing commitments such as the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, where more than 140 world leaders pledged to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by the end of the decade. Despite ambitious targets, data shows trends are heading in the wrong direction.

      3) Advance action on adaptation and loss and damage.

      The impacts of climate change are increasingly clear, with those least responsible for creating the problem feeling the worst of its effects. Drought in East Africa is pushing millions to the brink of famine. Forest fires are spewing dangerous air pollution and destroying homes and lives. More and more people are dying from extreme heat.

      Yet action to help communities build resilience to climate shocks — and the finance to make it happen — continue to lag. Developing countries will need $340 billion annually by 2030 to adapt to the impacts of climate change, but received only $29 billion in international adaptation finance in 2020. Grappling with “losses and damage” — the impacts of climate change so severe they cannot be adapted to, such as destruction of homes, heritage sites and even lives — will require an estimated $894 billion annually by 2030.

      At COP28, wealthy nations must provide the finance necessary to make adaptation possible in the countries that need it most, while helping them recover from unavoidable losses and damage.

      Countries must operationalize the Loss & Damage Fund agreed to at COP27 in 2022. Developed countries should show real progress toward their commitment to climate-vulnerable nations to double finance for adaptation by 2025, including making finance more accessible and channeling more resources and decision-making power to local communities. And countries must adopt an actionable plan for the Global Goal on Adaptation, including agreeing on an ambitious set of targets to build resilience around the world.

        Following Through on Past Pledges

        In addition to setting out bold, new plans, countries, companies, cities and others should come to COP28 prepared to demonstrate progress on past pledges. Specifically, we’ll be looking for action on issues like:

        • Cooperative initiatives: The world has seen several high-profile international climate initiatives emerge in recent years, such as the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership and the Global Methane Pledge, where more than 100 countries promised to reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane. Leaders should demonstrate progress on these cooperative initiatives at COP28.
        • National climate plans: Countries committed to increase the ambition of their national climate plans (known as “nationally determined contributions,” or NDCs) every five years. Stronger emissions-reductions targets are much-needed by 2030.
        • Financial pledges: Developed nations pledged to provide developing nations with $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020, but have yet to make good on this promise. Wealthy nations should demonstrate at COP28 that they are making up the shortfall while offering higher-quality finance, such as grants instead of loans.
        • A new climate finance goal: The Paris Agreement calls for a new global climate finance goal to be set next year at COP29. Climate negotiators must lay the groundwork for such a goal at COP28 to make next year’s deadline realistic.

        COP28: The Biggest Moment in History for Climate Action Accountability

        The Global Stocktake was created to help keep the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach. COP28 is the first test of whether decision-makers will stay true to its vision.

        National leaders — as well as those from companies, cities and more — must not only demonstrate progress on past pledges, but announce new plans that are ambitious enough to rein in escalating climate impacts and protect people and nature.

        WRI’s experts will be watching to see if decision-makers at COP28 can achieve the necessary outcomes. Check our Resource Hub regularly for ongoing news, commentary and analysis.