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The success of the global stocktake depends on putting people at the heart of the process

By Gurpreet Kaur on December 1, 2023

People working on a community farm
Photo credit: SolStock/iStock

The COP28 climate conference will see global leaders come together to conclude the first global stocktake (GST). But what exactly is the GST, why is it going to be a key focus at COP28, and critically – how can we ensure public engagement is integrated into every stage of the GST process to help ensure ambitious climate action?

The global stocktake

The global stocktake (GST) is more than just an assessment; it is a pivotal mechanism of the Paris Agreement (Art. 14) in our global fight against climate change. As the first GST is set to conclude at the Conference of Parties (COP28) this year, it is a momentous occasion that demands reflection and action.

The GST, as defined by the UNFCCC, is a mechanism and process that takes stock of what countries have done, are doing now, and can do in the future, evaluating collective progress towards the Paris Agreement’s goals and long-term objectives. It’s our compass for course-correction and a driver for raising ambition in climate action. However, for the GST to be truly effective, it must place people at the heart of the process, embracing a paradigm shift in how we engage the public.

Involving, inspiring and informing people will unlock change and progress

To ensure the success of the GST and to elevate ambition in the forthcoming round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the GST must be a catalyst for transformative change. Effective public engagement is the key to unlocking that potential, as highlighted in a new Climate Outreach report: The global stocktake and public engagement.

While the importance of involving people is thankfully finally beginning to be recognised, making that happen in practice remains a challenge. Many countries lack a clear strategy for public engagement and often view it as a mere public relations exercise. Raising awareness about climate change is undoubtedly crucial, but conventional awareness-raising efforts just aren’t enough and fall short in driving the transformative change necessary to secure a sustainable future. To make real progress, we need a profound shift towards effective and meaningful public engagement – fostering genuine dialogue, mutual understanding, and a sense of agency.

Effective public engagement then is a two-way process that involves listening to people, interacting with them, informing them about climate change, and involving them in solutions. This process generates mutual benefits and understanding, increasing public confidence in climate governance. It’s a vital tool for bringing people together to address shared challenges and inspire positive social change.

This is where the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) framework becomes key. ACE, embedded in both the UNFCCC Convention (Art. 6) and the Paris Agreement (Art. 12), underscores the importance of public engagement through six components: education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation. Public engagement runs throughout these six components to form the backbone of a strong, coherent and impactful Action on Climate Empowerment.

However, implementing ACE remains voluntary, leaving the responsibility on nations and governments to establish robust public engagement strategies. These strategies should align with certain core principles identified by Climate Outreach: values-based engagement, inclusivity that recognises diverse identities, the dissemination of honest and empowering narratives, communication via trusted messengers, and the cultivation of positive social norms.

Recommendations to governments

To ensure effective public engagement in the GST process and elevate ambition in NDCs, countries and governments should, as per the recommendations in our new report:

  • Develop robust public engagement strategies rooted in the ACE framework.
  • Acknowledge the dynamic relationship between individual, organisational, and government actions, drawing upon social science tools and learnings.
  • Demonstrate political will and leadership in prioritising public engagement.
  • Allocate funding for public engagement strategies at every stage of the GST process, not just for the 2025 NDCs. For countries that are resource-constrained, the UNFCCC should look into setting up a funding mechanism that can help jump-start the process.
  • Promote international cooperation to facilitate knowledge sharing and mutual learning.

Putting people at the heart of climate action

The success of the GST and the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement depend on putting people at the heart of the process, granting them agency, and empowering them to be catalysts for transformative change. Effective public engagement is the key to raising ambition, fostering cooperation, and paving the way for a sustainable, climate-resilient, and equitable future for all.

It is time for nations and governments to act, to embrace public engagement as a fundamental component of climate action – an opportunity and not just a tick-box exercise – and to secure the future we all strive for.

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By Dr Gurpreet Kaur

Gurpreet is the Engagement Advisor at Climate Outreach (maternity cover) working on the Climate Engagement Initiative.

Gurpreet comes from the tiny island-state of Singapore and grew up hearing how a rising sea-level could be disastrous for the country. Being a feminist and a human rights advocate, she then decided to explore the gender – human rights – climate connections in her PhD thesis on postcolonial ecofeminism and literary narratives. During this period, she also had to confront her own health scare which was a direct result of complications surrounding endometriosis. 

After a long and painful battle with endometriosis, which resulted in her being in a wheelchair for 5 years, she ultimately pivoted her focus to international human rights law. She now also raises awareness on endometriosis and disability, and the disproportionate impact it can have on women’s careers and life opportunities. More recently, she has been using her life experiences in exploring the interconnectedness of climate justice, endometriosis and the pink tax. 

In her free time, Gurpreet can be found watching Netflix, and when the fancy strikes, solo-travelling. To give her racing thoughts some sort of structure, she writes.

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