COP27 is nearing a breakthrough in climate finance in the battle for a final deal
- Countries studying the details of the new draft agreement
- Delegates announce possible progress in loss and damage
- The US proposes a “phasing out” of fossil fuels
- Some nations want firmer targets for long-term action
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, November 19 (Reuters) – Negotiators in COP27 climate summit in Egypt on Saturday moved closer to a landmark agreement on a fund to help poor countries devastated by the effects of global warming, but remained deadlocked over how to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that drive them.
With a final climate agreement already more than a day late, representatives from nearly 200 countries were eager for a deal they could herald as a step forward in the fight against climate change.
“We have to be quick here now, but not quick to a bad result. Not quick in the sense of accepting something that we then regretted for years,” said Eamon Ryan, Ireland’s environment minister.
Frans Timmermans, the head of the European Union’s climate policy, said ministers from the regional bloc were ready to “to walk away” if the agreement is not ambitious enough.
“We’d rather have no decision than a bad decision.”
The outcome of the two-week summit in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is a test of worldwide resolve to fight global warming, even as war in Europe and rampant consumer inflation distract international attention.
The draft COP27 agreement released on Saturday reaffirmed earlier commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the worst of climate change, but offered little evidence of increased ambition to make the emissions cuts needed to meet that goal.
Days of tense negotiations between rich and developing countries at the summit produced a proposal on Saturday to establish a fund to help countries dealing with irreparable damage from severe storms, floods, droughts and fires.
Rich countries, including the US and those in Europe, have been resisting the idea of so-called loss and damage fund for fear it would open them up to legal liability for their historical greenhouse gas emissions.
“We are pleased that now at least something is on the plate,” Pakistan’s Nabeel Munir, the lead negotiator for the G77 group of developing countries, said of the proposal.
Barbadian negotiator Avinash Persaud called the proposal “a small victory for humanity” resulting from the leadership of small island nations and the solidarity of the rest of the world, which has recognized the growing effects of warming.
“We must now redouble efforts behind energy, transport and agricultural transitions that will limit these climate losses and damages in the future,” Persaud said, referring to the transition to cleaner forms of energy and sustainable agriculture.
Negotiators said the idea had broad support but would have to be combined with increased ambition to cut the emissions that drive global warming.
“It is not acceptable that we will finance the consequences of climate change without committing ourselves to work on the real consequences of emissions,” said Romina Pourmokhtari, Sweden’s climate minister.
China and the United States, the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have so far not accepted the proposal.
The EU boosted the discussions earlier this week by offering support for a loss and damage fund, provided it is paid by major polluters, including China, and that countries also step up efforts to cut emissions.
It was not yet clear whether the EU conditions would be met.
The draft COP27 agreement released by the UN Climate Office on Saturday, for example, did not include the reference that India and the EU had requested that phase down use of “all fossil fuels”. Instead, it asked countries to phase out only coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, as agreed in last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact.
“It’s certainly disappointing, given the importance of doing this with all fossil fuels to keep temperatures below 1.5C,” said David Waskow, international climate director for the World Resources Institute.
During the eleventh hour of negotiations on Saturday night, the United States went further and proposed a “phase-out” of fossil fuels, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
Oil- and gas-rich African and Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, objected to language targeting fossil fuels and opposed the US proposal.
In an attempt to close the gap between current climate pledges and the far deeper cuts needed to prevent catastrophic climate change, the draft also called for countries that had not already done so to advance their 2030 emission reduction targets by the end of 2023.
But some negotiators want to see the draft call for an upgrade not just next year, but every year for the rest of the decade to ensure emissions fall as fast as scientists say are needed to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
Some activists said the draft offered some positive elements but still lacked ambition.
Complicating matters, US special climate envoy John Kerry, a powerful force in climate diplomacy, positive test for COVID-19 on Friday after several days of bilateral meetings with counterparts from China, the EU and others.
Kerry was unable to attend the talks in person on Saturday, but participated in the bilateral talks via video phone, the US State Department said.
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Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Jake Spring; By Richard Valdmanis and Dominic Evans; Editing by Katy Daigle, Janet Lawrence and Chris Reese
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