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The Global Stocktake: we might know where we are, but do we know where we are going?

Written by Charlene Watson

Image credit:United Nations Geneva headquarters. Image license:Falcon Photography

In less than six months, the first Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement will conclude in Dubai. The five-year, cyclical process, aims to raise climate ambition by assessing our collective progress since 2015, so that Parties can update and enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions and enhance international cooperation for climate action. You can find out more about the Global Stocktake here.

In many ways, the technical outcome of a global stocktaking exercise for financing climate action will come as no surprise. We haven’t done enough to shift finance flows to low-emission, climate-resilient development pathways. At least $4 trillion in climate-aligned finance needs to flow to climate action annually, globally, by 2030. But best estimates put us best estimates put us far off the mark at $850 billion .

Quantity is not everything. When it comes to understanding finance in the GST , quality counts. The Finance Working Group of the iGST – a consortium of civil society actors working to support the outcomes of the GST - submitted insights across a breadth of quantitative and qualitative elements focussing on financing needs, access and implementation of climate action. It identified problem statements and opportunities for future progress .

And so, we must conclude that we haven’t yet done enough to achieve the goals we set out for ourselves in the Paris Agreement and Convention.

We know that finance is a true enabler, a means of implementation and support, and - if targeted and applied strategically - a catalyst for action. On the other hand, the UNFCCC finance agenda can often lead to political stalemate. Developed countries have failed to deliver on a pledge to mobilize and provide 100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries . Missed targets like these end up complicating other finance agendas and damaging trust in the UNFCCC process.

Something has to be done differently. The GST is our opportunity to present a holistic vision for reallocating and scaling up finance for climate action where it is needed the most.

For many years, the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement deliberations on finance have focussed on the flow of finance from developed to developing countries. For good reasons too, given differing historic responsibilities for climate change, respective responsibilities under the multilateral agreement, and the varied capabilities of countries. But on its own, this conversation is about the billions and does not sufficiently capture how the billions will ultimately shift the trillions.

The ‘needs’ - the trillions - are a lot, but I am always reminded by peers that it is a fraction of global GDP . The question isn’t about whether that money will be invested, it's about whether it will be invested in low-emission, climate-resilient futures.

Following meetings held at the Bonn Climate Conference, the GST will switch gears from technical to political outcomes. The GST political outcomes on finance must elevate the multiple actions required to deliver change at the necessary scale and pace.

No single change will create the type of financial transformation we need. We must take into consideration the interconnectedness of the different layers of the financial system, the domestic and international reach of financial institutions and many corporates, as well as the multiple compounding crises and persistent inequities in the financial system. Only then will we be on the right path.

Yet, so much of what is required for this transformation can seem incontrollable. Outside of the UNFCCC process, finance is a formidable global power broker, shaping decision making across the world, often at great cost to citizens and businesses. But the multilateral process has an incredibly important role to play for state and non-state actors alike; the role of guiding us towards a just transition.

In order to support the objectives of the Convention and to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, The Finance Working Group of the iGST has identified a series of emerging political outcomes that could present a holistic and actionable vision to finance climate action.

The GST finance outcomes must support the allocation of scaled-up capital for climate action in developing countries,- many of which are countries who have contributed the least to climate change, but stand to lose the most from its effects – by:

  • Reducing the cost of commercial investment in climate solutions by enhancing the use of concessional and risk-taking capital.
  • Where appropriate, exploring debt restructuring and the use of concessional finance to avoid debt burdens halting climate action and sustainable development.
  • Ramping up climate finance provision and other means of implementation (capacity building and technology transfer) to match the scale of what is truly required.
  • Seeking out and make use of new and innovative sources of concessional finance.
  • Simplifying and expediting access to climate finance in a way that is driven by local needs and expertise.

The GST finance outcomes must spur global and national reallocation of capital toward climate solutions by:

  • Setting out a clear, timebound roadmap for financial systems reform, including the reorientation and restructuring of multilateral development banks.
  • Pushing corporates to set the adoption and implementation of meaningful near-term climate targets with transparent data and reporting.
  • Ensuring financial institutions and investors are mandated to set their own climate targets and transition plans so that money won’t continue to exacerbate climate related risks.
  • Pushing for regulatory reforms that align financial policy and fiscal incentives - including new and reformed taxes and subsidy schemes - to support just and rapid decarbonisation.

The final outcome of the GST remains uncertain: decision text, a declaration, or both. Beyond the process, there remains much to discuss to make these outcomes meaningful beyond the rhetoric;to make them implementable and impactful.. We must think not just of the steps we need to take, but who should take them, and by when.

As more non-state actors engage with the finance outcomes of the GST we need to rally around a holistic vision and build on emerging messages to plot a clear, unified path forward. At the heart of it, we must use this opportunity wisely; so that the next five years are unrecognisable from the last five years.