The Global Stocktake (GST) takes a central role within the architecture of the Paris Agreement, with many hoping that it will become a catalyst for increased mitigation ambition. This paper outlines four governance functions for an ideal GST: pacemaker, ensurer of accountability, driver of ambition and provider of guidance and signal. The GST can set the pace of progress by stimulating and synchronizing policy processes across governance levels. It can ensure accountability of Parties through transparency and public information sharing. Ambition can be enhanced through benchmarks for action and transformative learning. By reiterating and refining the long term visions, it can echo and amplify the guidance and signal provided by the Paris Agreement. The paper further outlines preconditions for the effective performance of these functions. Process-related conditions include: a public appraisal of inputs; a facilitative format that can develop specific recommendations; high-level endorsement to amplify the message and effectively inform national climate policy agendas; and an appropriate schedule, especially with respect to the transparency framework. Underlying information provided by Parties complemented with other (scientific) sources needs to enable benchmark setting for collective climate action, to allow for transparent assessments of the state of emissions and progress of a low-carbon transformation. The information also needs to be politically relevant and concrete enough to trigger enhancement of ambition. We conclude that meeting these conditions would enable an ideal GST and maximize its catalytic effect.