Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Despite a breakthrough on Saturday, international climate negotiations at the UN’s COP27 climate summit are dragging on into the early hours of Sunday.
The closing plenary of this year’s COP is scheduled to begin at 3 a.m. Egyptian time, according to a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Notice.
For the second year in a row, the marathon negotiations continued well past their scheduled end as countries tried to craft stronger language on phasing out all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, rather than just coal. , according to several NGOs that observed the talks.
Elsewhere, progress has been made. On Saturday, the parties reached a tentative agreement to establish a loss and damage fund for nations vulnerable to climate disasters, according to negotiators with the European Union and Africa, as well as non-governmental organizations that are observing the talks.
The United States is also working to sign an agreement on a loss and damage fund, Whitney Smith, a spokesman for US climate envoy John Kerry, confirmed to CNN.
The fund will focus on what can be done to support loss and damage remedies, but does not include liability or compensation provisions, a senior Biden administration official told CNN. The US and other developed nations have long sought to avoid such provisions that could expose them to legal liability and lawsuits from other countries.
If finalized, this could represent a breakthrough in negotiations on a contentious issue, and is seen as a setback, as the US has opposed efforts to create such a fund in the past.
It’s not all settled yet: An EU source directly involved in the negotiations warned on Saturday that the deal is part of the broader COP27 deal that must be approved by almost 200 countries. Negotiators worked through the night until Sunday. And other issues remain, including language on fossil fuels, according to multiple NGOs watching the talks.
But progress has been made, the source said. In a discussion on Saturday afternoon Egyptian time, the EU managed to get the G77 bloc of countries to agree to earmark the fund for vulnerable nations, potentially paving the way for a deal on loss and damage.
If finalized, the deal would represent a breakthrough on the international stage and far exceed expectations for this year’s climate summit, and the mood among some of the delegates was jubilant.
Countries that are the most vulnerable to climate disasters, but have contributed little to the climate crisis, have struggled for years to secure a fund for loss and damage.
The developed nations that have historically produced the most planet-warming emissions have been hesitant to sign a background they felt they could expose them to legal liability for weather disasters.
Details about how the fund would operate remain murky. The tentative text says a fund will be established this year, but leaves many questions about when it will be finalized and operational, climate experts told reporters on Saturday. The text talks about a transition committee that will help finalize those details, but does not establish future deadlines.
“There are no guarantees for the timeline,” Nisha Krishnan, director of resilience at the World Resources Institute for Africa, told reporters.
Proponents of a loss and damage fund were pleased with the progress, but noted that the draft is not ideal.
“We’re happy with this result because it’s what developed countries wanted, although not all of what they came here for,” Erin Roberts, founder of the Loss and Damage Collaboration, told CNN in a statement. “Like many, I have also been conditioned to expect very little from this process. While establishing the fund is certainly a victory for developing countries and those on the front lines of climate change, it is an empty shell without funding. It is too little, too late for those on the front lines of climate change. But we will work on it.”
At COP27, demand for a loss and damage fund, from developing countries, the G77 bloc and activists, reached a fever pitch spurred by a series of major weather disasters this year, including The devastating floods in Pakistan.
The conference went into overtime for the first time on Saturday before continuing into the early hours of Sunday morning, with negotiators still working out details as workers dismantled the venue around them. At times, there was a real feeling of fatigue and frustration. To complicate matters, Kerry, the top US climate official, is self-isolating after Recently tested positive for Covidworking the phones instead of having face-to-face meetings.
And earlier on Saturday, EU officials threatened to pull out of the meeting if the final deal does not support a goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Global scientists have warned for decades that warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees, a threshold that is fast approaching as the planet’s average temperature has already risen to around 1.1 degrees. Beyond 1.5 degreesthe risk of extreme droughts, wildfires, floods and food shortages will increase dramatically, scientists said at the latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In a carefully choreographed press conference on Saturday morning, EU Green Deal Czar Frans Timmermans, flanked by a whole list of ministers and other senior officials from EU member states, said that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
“We don’t want 1.5 Celsius to die here and today. That for us is completely unacceptable,” she said.
The EU made it clear that it was willing to accept a loss and damage fund, a major change in its position compared to just a week ago, but only in exchange for a strong commitment to the 1.5 degree target.
As the sun set in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday night, the mood changed to cautious jubilation, with groups of negotiators beginning to hint that a deal was in the offing.
But, as is always the case with high-level diplomacy, officials were quick to emphasize that nothing is truly agreed until the final hammer falls.
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