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A bumper new Global Stocktake (GST) text has landed overnight. All 24 pages of it. This is not going to offer clarity on a final COP28 outcome as it keeps all the main options on the table. Less the beginning of the end, more the end of the beginning. It’s the key battleground over the next eight days.

The stocktake can seem boring but it’s central to the Paris Agreement and COP28. It’s a mandated report card of global action every five years that sets the parameters for new national climate plans (due in 2025), identifies what they need to include (all sectors, all gases?) and offers a headline take on what they need to deliver. If that’s fossil fuel phaseout for 2050, that’s what they should aim for.

Here are some key lines from the latest text:

– Renewables: repeats Saturday’s pledge on tripling renewables and doubling efficiency

– Fossils v Coal: offers an orderly and just phaseout of fossil fuels; or one that accelerates efforts towards phasing out unabated fossil fuels; or one that focuses on a rapid phaseout of unabated coal power this decade and an immediate end to new unabated coal for power. The last option will be popular with the US, but the key question is how hard will fossil fuel producing countries push back on the phaseout?

– Subsides: offers an option to phase out inefficient subsidies over the “mid-term.” This is similar language that the G20 has used for over 10 years without much movement.

– CCS/H2: offers substantial scale up globally of zero and low-emission technologies, including abatement and removal technologies, such as CCUS, and low-carbon hydrogen production. Fossil fuel producing countries will like this, as it doesn’t specify in which sectors this tech should be used.

On top of the this, the text calls for new climate plans well before COP30 and action across all sectors, specifically highlighting methane and nature. It’s heavy on the science and who’s at fault for where we are now, and places fairness front and centre, acknowledging different starting points for countries and the need for more support. It also highlights the need for better quality finance – so grants instead of loans – and says more work is needed to double adaptation finance.

Finance is an area that will crop up more and more in the coming days, including talks on a Global Goal for Adaptation, a long-term target for climate finance, carbon markets and trade. 


Finance: The good, the bad

The good: the second round of replenishment pledges for the Green Climate Fund have surpassed those from the first round in 2019 and now stand at $12.8bn. The surprise launch of the loss & damage fund, with up to $655 million pledged so far, is a welcome step forward. 

The bad: at least $2.4tn in climate finance is needed for developing countries by 2030. Economic volatility means 54 countries need urgent debt relief to avert a development crisis.


Credibility gap

Meanwhile the fallout from the Guardian’s expose of COP boss Al Jaber’s questioning of the science behind calls for phasing down/out fossil fuels continues. Yesterday’s impromptu press conference with IPCC boss Jim Skea saw the scientist provide clarity on the role of the oil & gas companies in the climate fight: “They can and must do more in order to solve this problem much more rapidly.” Having recognised the IPCC and Shea as the ultimate authority on science, Al Jaber’s now bound to the Scot, whose take on a deal here will be keenly sought. 

Al Jaber was clear he’s unhappy with the media and “with the constant and repeated attempts to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency”. What’s less clear is the consistency of his message. It is precisely the lack of clarity over fossil fuel phasedown/out allied with ADNOC’s expansion of oil & gas fields that’s causing confusion. His company’s $150bn CAPEX to boost production to five million barrels a day by 2027 does not smack of a plan based on science or phasing anywhere but up. Check whether this cognitive dissonance has been resolved at the Energy Day curtain raiser.

‘Existential crisis’

Speaking of which, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was emphatic when asked if his country would agree to a final text including a phasedown of fossil fuels. “Absolutely not”, he said, before bizarrely calling on all countries backing a phasedown or phaseout to present a clear plan on how to do so by the beginning of next year.

And this on a day when a Saudi think tank chaired by Mohammed bin Salman released a report showing the country is already on the “verge of liveability” and the climate crisis could “manifest an existential crisis to Saudi Arabia”. It warns water stocks are running out fast and algal blooms and rising water salinity will impact desalination plants. “Choosing a path of no action, or relying solely on a capacity to adapt or mitigate the climate challenge away, is not an effective strategy”, it said.