Climate Talks, Paris Agreement

Always Forward, Never Backward: The Facilitative Dialogue, Global Stocktake and the Ambition Mechanism of the Paris Agreement

This article is written by Mark Ortiz.

Picture1It is well known that the first round of Paris Agreement pledges would substantially overshoot the accord’s long-term temperature targets. If the first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) were the end of the line, the planet would roast!

Fortunately, the initial pledges are far from final. The Paris Agreement is designed to encourage stronger commitments over time through a feature that has become known as the ambition mechanism. This mechanism aims to progressively increase – or “ratchet-up” – the ambition of country plans in order to realize the Agreement’s long-term goals of limiting temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees C” and achieving a net-zero emissions scenario by the second half of this century.

The centerpiece of the Paris Agreement’s ambition mechanism is a periodic stocktaking exercise. Structured as a cyclical process beginning in 2018, this stocktaking is envisaged as a chance to periodically take account of collective progress toward global targets, identify implementation gaps and opportunities for enhanced ambition, and provide the basis for revising and updating NDCs.Since it is a bit confusing, I’ve created this timeline to help visualize!

Importantly, several of the key steps in this stocktaking process are set to take place in the next few years. The first in this timeline is the Facilitative Dialogue (FD) scheduled for 2018 (set to coincide with the completion of the ‘Paris Rulebook’). According to Paragraph 20 of decision 1/CP.21, which convenes the FD, the intent of the dialogue is to begin taking stock of the “collective efforts” of parties in relation to long-term mitigation goals (See Yann’s piece for a fuller overview of the 2018 FD).

After the 2018 FD, countries are expected to use what was discussed as the basis for modifying their NDCs in advance of 2020. These NDCs will have a 2030 horizon. Ideally, this round of updates will reflect increased ambition in line with the latest science and whatever opportunities for enhanced action are identified in the FD.

Then, in 2023, countries will participate in an exercise called the Global Stocktake (GST). In contrast to the FD 2018 (which will be mitigation-centered), the GST will consider progress made on mitigation, adaptation and climate finance. It will provide an opportunity for Parties to explicitly connect their activities across the multiple pillars of the climate regime to larger-scale and longer-term global goals, providing necessary context for revisiting their national commitments. Another round of NDC revisions and resubmissions will follow the 2023 stocktake, and this cycle will repeat once more before 2030 (with a 2028 stocktake and 2030 NDC updates).

At this point, parties have only agreed on the general contours of the 2023 stocktake. For one, it should be conducted “in the light of equity and best available science.” Additionally, it is intended to have both forward and backward-looking components: in other words, reviewing the implementation successes and shortfalls leading up to the stocktake will provide the basis for moving ahead with enhanced ambition.

Despite the agreement on its broad parameters, the specific modalities of the 2023 GST remain to be designed. Unfortunately, little progress was made on this front at SB46 last month in Bonn. There, parties were only able to produce a jumbled “informal note” on the stocktake and were unable even to agree on what “headings” to include.


From the SB46 Informal Note on the GST. In other words, no clarity yet!

If designed and executed well, the 2023 GST will present a unique opportunity to build on existing country commitments. In a best-case scenario, it may even place the aspirational goals of the Paris Agreement within reach. But, in order to ensure that the 2023 GST is a success, and ambition reaches the levels it needs to to avert climate catastrophe, leaders will have to ensure that the 2018 FD is inclusive, forward-looking, and sends a strong signal that the world is serious about meeting the Paris goals.


A Civil Society Vision for Paris Agreement Ambition Mechanism


About the author : Mark Ortiz is a PhD student in geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (U.S.). His research focuses on mitigation, climate law and intergenerational ethics.

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