This year’s COP28 summit focuses on accelerating a just energy transition to get back on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, evolving climate finance and prioritising the protection of our natural world, on the path to net zero. These priorities have been underpinned by key research papers and multilateral agreements. We summarise some of the most crucial reports released ahead of COP28.

Not all reports are created equal

In the lead up to each COP, investors, politicians, and the general public are bombarded with opinion pieces, whitepapers, newsletters, podcasts, speeches and insight papers from writers and researchers of varying levels of expertise. Whether you’re attending the summit in Dubai, or you’ll be influencing your company’s climate policy in coming months, it’s important to prioritise policy advice that is both widely peer-reviewed and can help drive genuine impact.

Below, we summarise the core research and policy papers that will drive debate at this year’s summit in the UAE. These will, in some cases, have influenced COP President Sultan Al Jaber’s letter to delegates last month which sets out expectations and priorities for COP28.

The UN Global Stocktake Synthesis Report (October 2023)

The UN’s Synthesis Report was designed to inform discussions on the global stocktake findings at this year’s COP. The global stocktake is part of the Paris Agreement and a key means to assess progress against meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally 1.5 degrees. The report has a clear conclusion – We are not on track to meet this goal due to insufficient climate actions, but it also provides recommendations to chart a path forward. It is clear that more action by all parties and support for developing countries is needed urgently to limit global warming, to avoid loss and damage, and to adapt to climate change. The stocktake will conclude at COP28 and the findings need to be incorporated in the next update of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Read the report

The UN Adaptation Gap Report (October 2023)

The UN’s annual Adaptation Gap Report reviews progress made in relation to climate adaptation. This year’s report, entitled ‘Underfinanced. Underprepared – Inadequate investment and planning on climate adaptation leaves world exposed’ argues that against the backdrop of extreme weather events, developing countries in particular are in desperate need of increased adaptation finance, but have seen insufficient public multilateral and bilateral adaptation finance flows. Their adaptation finance needs are 10-18 times higher than global public finance flows. Read the report

The UN Emissions Gap Report (November 2023)

The Emissions Gap Report (EGR) is the UN Environment Programme's annual pre-COP spotlight report. The EGR tracks the gap between where global emissions are heading with current country commitments and where they ought to be to limit warming to 1.5°C. Each edition explores ways to bridge the emissions gap. This year’s report, Broken Record, highlights that emissions rose by 1.2% in 2022 to reach record levels and that the world is heading for a temperature rise far above the Paris Agreement goals – 2.5°C based on conditional NDCs and 2.9°C if only unconditional NDCs are considered. It calls for all nations to accelerate action to achieve peak emissions. Read the report

The UN Production Gap Report (November 2023)

The first Production Gap Report was released in 2019 as a means to track the discrepancy between planned fossil fuel production and global production levels consistent with limiting warming to agreed levels. The 2023 Production Gap Report finds that governments plan to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, and 69% more than would be consistent with 2°C. Read the report

State of Climate Action 2023 (November 2023)

The State of Climate Action 2023 is a collaborative report developed by contributors from the World Resources Institute, Climate Action Tracker, ClimateWorks Foundation, and the UN. The report aims to provide a comprehensive roadmap of how to close key gaps in climate action. This year’s report states that progress has been “woefully inadequate” with 41 of 42 indicators assessed not on track to achieve their 2030 targets – the only one on track being the % sale of electric vehicles. Policy makers gathering at COP28 should agree a clear action plan for each one of the ‘off-track’ indicators. Read the report

IEA World Energy Outlook 2023 (October 2023)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) advocates policies that will enhance the reliability, affordability, and sustainability of energy strategy in its 31 member and 13 associated member countries. Its annual outlook provides in-depth analysis into every aspect of the global energy system. This year’s report proposed five key pillars, which the IEA believes can provide the basis for a successful COP28. The pillars are: tripling global renewable capacity; doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements; slashing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations by 75%; innovative, large-scale financing mechanisms to triple clean energy investments in developing economies; and measures to ensure an orderly decline in the use of fossil fuels, including an end to new approvals of unabated coal-fired power plants. Read the report

IEA: The Oil and Gas Industry in Net Zero Transitions (November 2023)

In addition to its flagship annual outlook, the IEA released a supplementary report focused specifically on the oil and gas industry, which provides more than half of global energy supply and employs nearly 12 million workers. The report analyses the pivotal role the industry must play in delivering a global net zero economy. The IEA suggests that oil companies face ‘a moment of truth’ and that producers must choose between contributing to a deepening climate crisis or becoming part of the solution by genuinely embracing the shift to clean energy. Read the report


Countless research papers, articles, speeches, and statements from special interest groups have been devoted to discussing priorities for climate action. With an overabundance of information and increasingly polarised views to contest with, it’s important to understand which reports remain the most robust and influential. In particular, their key findings should provide a steer on priorities for COP28 delegates to focus on

eva cairns, head of sustainability insights and climate strategy at abrdn.

Eva Cairns recently examined which gaps to be addressed at COP28 investors should be looking for, read her thoughts here.