Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Despite a major breakthrough on Saturday, international climate talks at the United Nations’ COP27 climate summit dragged on into the early hours of Sunday morning.
According to the notification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the closing plenary session of this year’s COP is scheduled to start at 3 am Egypt time.
Marathon talks for a second year in a row as countries try to agree stronger language on phasing out all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, not just unabated coal, according to multiple NGOs observing the talks Continued well past the scheduled end time.
In other areas, too, progress has been made. On Saturday, the parties reached a tentative agreement to create a “loss and damage” fund for countries vulnerable to climate disasters, according to EU and African negotiators and NGOs observing the talks.
Whitney Smith, a spokesman for U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, confirmed to CNN that the U.S. is also working to sign an agreement on a loss and damage fund.
A senior Biden administration official told CNN that the fund would focus on what could be done to support resources for loss and destruction, but would not include liability or compensation provisions. The U.S. and other developed nations have long sought to avoid such clauses, which could expose them to legal liability and lawsuits in other countries.
If finalized, it could represent a major breakthrough in talks on a contentious subject – seen as a reversal as the US has opposed efforts to create such a fund in the past.
Nothing has been settled yet – an EU source directly involved in the negotiations warned earlier on Saturday that the deal is part of a larger COP27 agreement that must be ratified by nearly 200 countries. Negotiators worked through the night and into Sunday. Other issues, including language around fossil fuels, remained, according to multiple NGOs observing the talks.
But sources say progress has been made. In discussions on Saturday afternoon Egypt time, the EU managed to get G77 countries to agree to target the fund on vulnerable states, which could pave the way for an agreement on loss and damage.
If reached, the agreement would represent a major breakthrough on the international stage, far exceeding expectations at this year’s climate summit, and some delegates were in high spirits.
Countries most vulnerable to climate disasters – but contributing little to the climate crisis – have struggled for years to secure a loss and damage fund.
Developed nations, which have historically produced the most planet-warming emissions, have been hesitant to sign up to a fund they believe would make them legally liable for climate catastrophe.
Details of how the fund will operate remain unclear. Climate experts told reporters on Saturday that the tentative text said a fund would be established this year, but there were many questions about when it would be finalized and operational. The text talks of a transition committee that will help finalize those details, but does not set a future deadline.
“There is no guarantee of a timetable,” Nisha Krishnan, resilience director at the World Resources Institute in Africa, told reporters.
Advocates for the loss and damage fund are pleased with the progress, but note that the draft is less than ideal.
“We’re pleased with this outcome because it’s what the developed world wanted — though not all they came here for,” Eileen Roberts, founder of the Loss and Damage Partnership, told CNN in a statement. network. “Like many people, I am also used to having very small expectations for the process. While establishing the fund is certainly a victory for developing countries and countries on the frontlines of climate change, it is an empty space without funding.” Shell. It is too little, too late for those on the frontlines of climate change. But we will try.”
Demand for a loss and damage fund from developing countries, the G77 bloc and activists culminated at COP27 amid some major climate disasters this year, including devastating floods in Pakistan.
The meeting first went into overtime on Saturday and then continued into the early hours of Sunday, with negotiators still working out details and workers demolishing the field around them. At certain times, there is indeed a sense of fatigue and frustration. To complicate matters, top US climate official John Kerry, who is self-isolating after recently testing positive for Covid, is using the phone instead of conducting face-to-face meetings.
Earlier on Saturday, EU officials threatened to walk out of the meeting if the final agreement failed to support the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Scientists around the world have warned for decades that warming must be limited to 1.5 degrees – a threshold that is fast approaching as Earth’s average temperature has already climbed to around 1.1 degrees. Above 1.5 degrees, the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages will increase dramatically, scientists said in the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
At a well-planned news conference on Saturday morning, EU Green Deal chair Frans Timmermans, who gathered ministers and other senior officials from EU member states, said: Better than a bad deal.”
“We don’t want 1.5 degrees to disappear here and today. That’s totally unacceptable to us,” he said.
The EU has made it clear that it is willing to agree to a loss and damage fund – a significant shift from a week ago – but only in exchange for a firm commitment to the 1.5 degree target.
On Saturday evening, as the sun set in Sharm el-Sheikh, the atmosphere turned to cautious jubilation, and negotiators began to signal that a deal was imminent.
But, as is always the case with high-level diplomacy, officials were quick to stress that nothing was really agreed until the final gavel fell.