As an overarching point, the report stresses the need to envisage systems’ transformation and provides concrete examples in all sectors of the economy. This translates in a call to adopt “whole-of-society approaches and integrated, inclusive policymaking”, which in turn calls for a drastic change in the approach to the design of strategies and actions. Indeed, this comes down to recognizing that the solution will not come from a siloed and scattered approach where each component of the transformation is treated separately, but requires instead a recognition of the complexity of the interplays at stake. For example, although the deployment of renewable energy is identified as a necessary condition for ambitious climate action, the report highlights the need to envisage it consistently with the other key components of the energy transition, such as the phasing-out of unabated fossils, the drivers of energy demand (electrification, energy efficiency and demand-side management), some technical solutions (storage), the economic aspects (investments) and the social consequences (with a strong emphasis on just transitions).
This conclusion by the UNFCCC GST report is politically relevant and useful, for at least two reasons: in each country, deciding on such a policy package is very difficult, as can be seen in Southern as well as in Northern contexts, and it appeals to unlocking international scale blocking factors; in addition, this recommendation comes in the middle of a COP28 preparation process where there is a risk to focus only on renewable energy development. This material, while grounded on technical analysis, is therefore politically useful in the current context, as it is also a legitimate expression of UNFCCC parties and experts in the GST process.
To enable these systems’ transformation, the report identifies concrete elements on which the global policy environment should focus:
First, the report highlights the importance of international cooperation and support. International cooperation is critical both to share experience and promote learning, but also to overcome barriers and maximize synergies between climate action and development. Most importantly, it is highlighted that, for international cooperation to deliver these benefits, it needs to be approached with “creativity and innovation”. Notably, while the current scoping of international cooperation in climate change frequently focuses on one specific action or project, or on one of the thematic areas of mitigation, adaptation, capacity building, technology, or finance, strengthened climate action requires a more holistic approach suited to trigger systemic changes across different sectors and silos.
Second, the report stresses the role of the action by non-Party stakeholders and the critical importance of promoting cooperative action among them. Different actors should therefore have different levers of action in hand and the implementation of systems’ transformation should happen only if they all work together in a synergetic manner. The diagnosis is that, although a large number and variety of international initiatives involving both countries and non-Party stakeholders are in place, most of them lack an “all of economy, all of society” approach that would make them aligned with the requirements of systemic transformations.
Third, the report calls for a “country-based and needs-based” approach to climate action and cooperation, stressing the need to acknowledge the specificities of national circumstances when designing international processes. Lack of human and institutional capacity in developing countries is notably identified as a key obstacle to ambitious action and it is recognized that international cooperation is instrumental to enhance these capacities and therefore allow each country to be in the adequate conditions to follow ambitious systemic transformations.
These components form the building blocks of what could be an upgraded approach to ambition and action, consistent with the original paradigm of the Paris Agreement. The success at COP28 will therefore have to be appraised in relation to the new means put in place to support creative and innovative international cooperation, enabling the emergence of cooperation that helps address the needs of countries to implement systemic transformations: establishing adequate processes or mobilizing existing processes inside the UNFCCC or, indirectly, sending a clear policy signal as to what countries and other actors could usefully do after COP28 in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement in order to trigger adequate initiatives on the above dimensions.
In that regard, the continuity of the process of collective discussions such as the one conducted in the GST appears as a necessity since it has proven its value in eliciting concrete recommendations emerging from country perspectives. But, to fully deliver its promise to effectively support the bottom-up paradigm of the Paris Agreement, important gaps identified in the first GST process will also have to be addressed, notably the lack of capacity preventing developing countries to fully participate in the process, leading to an insufficient accounting of their perspectives, as confirmed in a recent IDDRI-DDP-KAS study on Africa.
(Photo by UNFCCC licensed under Creative Commons)