Countries struggled to reach an agreement at Egypt’s COP27 climate talks, with some threatening to walk out if negotiators did not make progress on climate change.
With talks already in overtime, officials from the 27-nation European Union said on Saturday they were concerned about a lack of overnight progress — and even the possibility of backsliding from parts of the COP26 climate agreement agreed in Glasgow, Scotland, last year.
“We have to move forward, not backwards and all that [EU] ministers … are prepared to walk away if we do not have a result that does justice to what the world is waiting for, namely that we do something about this climate crisis,” said EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the summit, he called on other negotiating parties to reciprocate their efforts to reach an agreement, particularly on the issue of financing for poorer countries affected by climate disasters.
“We believe that a positive result is still within reach today. But we’re concerned about some of the things we’ve seen and heard in the last, say, 12 hours,” he said.
“We’d rather have no decision than a bad decision.”
Sameh Shoukry, president of the COP27 climate summit, told the nearly 200 countries gathered in Egypt to “seize the opportunity” as the success of the conference was at stake.
A day after the summit was due to end, Shoukry added that he knew there was a lot of “discontent” among all sides, but called on countries to show determination to reach a consensus.
New Zealand’s climate minister said a draft of the final document circulated by the presidency “has been received quite badly by virtually everyone”, adding that delegations are embarking on a new round of negotiations.
Speaking to reporters, James Shaw called the draft “wholly unsatisfactory”.
He added that the proposal “really abandons any hope of reaching 1.5 [degrees Celsius; 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit]”, referring to the warming limit agreed upon at the Paris Agreement in 2015.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said responsibility “is now in the hands of the Egyptian COP presidency”.
The European Union had made it clear overnight “we will not sign a document here that deviates significantly from the 1.5-degree path, which would bury the 1.5-degree target,” Baerbock said.
“If these climate conferences brought us back, we wouldn’t have had to travel here in the first place,” she said.
An official speaking on behalf of the African group of negotiators said he knew little about the negotiations.
“We keep hearing of late-night side meetings to break the deadlock, but we haven’t been involved and we’re waiting to see what they’ll come up with before deciding,” they said.
‘Fight for a good planet’
Frustration also grew among the negotiators about the way in which the Egyptian presidency led the talks. Some complained about a lack of transparency in the consultations, while others said the process was unpredictable compared to previous talks.
The meeting known as COP27 started two weeks ago and was scheduled to wrap up on Friday, but it looks like it will drag on all weekend.
Many of the more than 40,000 in attendance have left town and workers have begun to pack up the huge pavilions in the sprawling conference area.
In the youth pavilion, a meeting place for young activists, a stack of handwritten postcards from children to negotiators lay on a table, perhaps an apt metaphor for the state of play when talks made little progress.
“Dear COP27 Negotiators,” read one card. “Thank you for coming to COP27 this year. I hope you can bring back more this time. Don’t forget to mention to keep it at 1.5, have big heat waves this year and keep fighting for a good planet.”