Global climate talks have entered the last scheduled day of negotiations as the chances of a deal still appear unclear.
United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt was expected to pass the deadline on Friday and over the weekend, with wealthy and developing countries deadlocked on creating a fund for countries devastated by the effects of global warming.
The Egyptian presidency released a new, slimmer version of an overarching cover document on Friday morning after a 20-page version released the day before was criticized for being too long, vague and confusing.
One of the most pressing topics was the European Union’s proposal to link climate disaster compensation to tighter emissions controls, two of the most thorny issues at the meeting.
The two-pronged approach of the 27-nation EU would create a pot of money for poor countries and push for sharper cuts in heat-trapping emissions by all countries, as well as the phasing out of all fossil fuels, including natural gas and oil.
EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said the bloc’s proposal on financing for loss and damage and mitigation was “a last-ditch offer” that sought to “find a compromise” between countries.
in climate negotiations loss and damage refers to the idea that rich countries, which have historically contributed most to climate change, should compensate developing countries most affected.
Softening refers to efforts to slow global warming, such as drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Timmermans said he was “encouraged” by the immediate response to the proposal and more involvement was expected on Friday.
“It’s about not having a failure here,” he said. “We cannot afford to have a failure. If our steps forward are not mutual, then obviously there will be failure. But I hope we can avoid that.”
‘No money in the world’
The German foreign minister said the European Union is serious about climate justice for poor countries suffering the disastrous effects of global warming.
“We are making it clear that Europe is on the side of the most vulnerable states,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “Others can now show which side they are on. Spending money is not an end in itself, but about ensuring justice.”
Baerbock acknowledged that industrialized countries that were “up to now mainly responsible for global warming should also pay for the damage and losses as a priority”.
But she warned it would be “a totally wrong incentive system” to exclude major polluters and not also require them to reduce their emissions.
Baerbock added, unless emissions are cut more strongly, “no money in the world could pay for the damages and losses of the future”.
Other major players were plotting their positions after the EU bid. Deals at COP27 must be made with the support of all the nearly 200 countries participating in the talks.
China, which had been silent during much of the talks, and Saudi Arabia both said the money for a loss and damage fund should not come from them. Developed countries should foot the bill, China said.
Both also urged that the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to an ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) increase, not be changed.
As for the United States, there was “a deafening silence” after the EU unveiled their proposal, said Preety Bhandari, senior adviser on climate finance at the World Resources Institute.
“So I assume that there will be a lot of diplomatic contact between different parties overnight and throughout the day to ultimately help us make the decision on funding loss and damage here at COP27.”
Loss and damage has become a focal point in the climate talks that began two weeks ago. Poorer countries that bear the brunt of climate change, from rising sea levels to extreme flooding, have stepped up urgency, accusing wealthier polluters who have contributed most to global warming greenhouse gas emissions of being stuck.
Hours before the EU’s intervention, COP27 President Sameh Shoukry – the foreign minister of host Egypt – had told reporters that countries “reluctant to make the difficult political decisions”.
The UN climate agency also published a draft proposal for a loss and damage deal late on Thursday, but the three options given to delegates to consider did not yet reflect the EU proposal.
The first option proposes to create a new fund for climate-sensitive countries. The second states that the decision on a fund will be postponed until next year’s COP28 summit. The third calls for funding arrangements to be decided at COP28, without mentioning a new fund.
Climate-sensitive countries insist they cannot wait another year to set up a fund to pay compensation.