Global Stocktake Calls for Systems Transformation


(Photo credit: acilo / iStock)

It’s a historic day for climate action. It is the first time that the world’s governments have taken stock of our collective progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement under its Global Stocktake. The Stocktake began with a remarkable collection of more than 170,000 pages worth of inputs from international bodies, countries, and non-governmental organizations and involved a series of technical dialogues held over 2022 and 2023. The report summarizes these findings and informs a final political phase of the Global Stocktake, which concludes at COP28. This is when governments must heed the report’s warnings and embrace the opportunities presented for a way forward.

The report’s messages are not new. A rapidly narrow window exists to raise ambition and limit warming to 1.5C. Global emissions must peak between 2020 and 2025, and yet emissions continue to rise. Countries’ climate commitments, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and domestic mitigation measures must be strengthened. And as impacts continue to mount, adaptation and measures to address loss and damage are urgently needed. Relatedly, support for climate action in developing countries must be rapidly scaled up and made accessible, and capital must be redirected away from fossil intensive activities towards climate action.

But this report is not just another report. The official findings of the Paris Agreement’s accountability mechanism, the Global Stocktake, serve as one of the central hooks in the Paris Agreement to raise ambition. Additionally, all governments have had the opportunity to contribute to its findings.

A focus on systems transformation

While many of the messages confirm other recent findings, this report recognizes the need for systems transformation in a way the UN Climate Agreement has never articulated. This is not the time for tinkering around the edges but is instead time for “radical decarbonization of all sectors of the economy” according to the report. Emissions must take a complete U-Turn, and greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 compared to 2019 levels, reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. 

And to achieve that, systems transformation is required across the board.

The report urges countries to scale up renewable energy in the energy system and boldly calls for a phase out of all unabated fossil fuels, which will no doubt be a hotly contested topic at the upcoming climate negotiations. 

In addition, the report provides a roadmap for how we transform transportation, buildings, and industry. This requires not only strengthening energy efficiency, but also reducing demand, electrification, and advancement of new fuels and solutions for harder-to-abate sub-sectors, among other solutions.

Systems transformation is also urgently needed in agriculture and land management practices. The report calls for halting and reversing deforestation and degradation – critical for curbing emissions and protecting our precious carbon sinks. 

Relatedly, given agriculture’s decisive role in land use change, the report calls for several demand- and supply-side shifts– from sustainably intensifying agriculture without further land expansion to shifting diets and reducing food loss and waste.

Notably, the report finds that these systems transformations go hand in hand with development goals. Climate impacts are already reversing hard-won development gains and exacerbating existing inequality. Systems transformation can and must be conducted in a way that brings equity and inclusion at the center of efforts.

Now is the time for action and international cooperation

We track major systems transformations via the Systems Change Lab, which the Bezos Earth Fund convenes with the World Resources Institute and other leading partners. We have found that some of these transformations are already underway, and a few are progressing at a pace that enables positive tipping points to be crossed. Others are only just beginning, and some are stuck with little progress. Most troubling, some transformations are headed in the wrong direction altogether.

At COP28, governments should commit to a roadmap for systems transformation, which includes:

  1. A call to enhance NDCs delivered before COP30 that align with a just transition to net-zero emissions;
  2. Rapidly and equitably phase out fossil fuels and scale renewable energy;
  3. Foster sustainable, resilient food systems and agriculture while halting and reversing deforestation, degradation and biodiversity loss;
  4. Enhance capabilities for adaptation and responding to losses and damages, including through accessible finance; and
  5. Scale and shift finance.

This year’s Global Stocktake is one of the most decisive moments related to climate action this decade. How governments respond to these technical findings, e.g., in the form of more ambitious NDCs and collaborative sectoral action, will make or break our emissions trajectory. 

We are at a crossroads. We must choose to ignite widespread change across our global systems – from how we grow our food to move around to build our cities to manage our land – to stop the relentless drumbeat of climate extremes and impacts unfolding around the world.

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