For the first time, the nations of the world decided to help pay for the damage that an overheated world is doing to poor countries, but they ended marathon climate talks without further addressing the cause of those disasters – the burning of fossil fuels.

Early Sunday, delegates approved the compensation fund but failed to address the controversial issues of an overall temperature target, emissions reductions and a desire to phase out all fossil fuels.

Until the wee hours in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, the states of the European Union and other nations fought back against what they perceived as a backslide to the Egyptian presidency’s overarching cover deal and threatened the rest of the to sink the process.

The package was revised again, removing most of the elements that Europeans had objected to, but adding nothing the increased ambition what they hoped for.

“What we have before us is not enough as a step forward for people and the planet,” a disappointed Frans Timmermans, the EU’s executive vice-president, told his fellow negotiators. “It does not generate enough additional effort from major emitters to increase and accelerate their emission reductions.

“We have all fallen short of actions to prevent and minimize loss and damage,” said Timmermans. “We should have done a lot more.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also expressed her frustration.

“It is beyond frustrating to see overdue mitigation and fossil energy phase-out measures being held back by a number of major emitters and oil producers,” she said.

France said it regretted the “lack of ambition” in the agreement.

“No progress has been made” in making additional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels, Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said in a statement, lamenting a “genuine disappointment” but welcoming the “loss and damage” fund. for countries vulnerable to climate change.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “Our planet is still in the emergency room. We now need to drastically reduce emissions – and this is a problem that this COP has not addressed.”

Phasing out fossil fuels?

Sunday’s agreement contains a veiled reference to the benefits of natural gas as a low-emission energy, despite many countries calling for a phase-out of natural gas, which does contribute to climate change.

While the new agreement doesn’t call for emissions cuts, it does retain the language to keep alive the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The Egyptian presidency continued to make proposals that harked back to the 2015 Paris language, which also mentioned a looser target of 2C (3.6F).

The world has already warmed 1.1°C since pre-industrial times.

The deal does not go beyond last year’s call to phase out global use of “unabated coal”, even as India and other countries have pushed for oil and natural gas to be included in the Glasgow language. This was also discussed at the last minute, which upset the Europeans in particular.

The president of last year’s climate talks chided top leadership for countering his efforts to do more to reduce emissions with a powerful list of what hadn’t been done.

“We have worked with many parties to propose a number of measures that would have contributed to this emissions peak before 2025 as science tells us is necessary. Not in this text,” said Alok Sharma from the UK, highlighting the last part.

“Clear follow-up of the phase-out of coal. Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energy text weakened in the last minutes.

And in his remarks to the negotiators, UN climate chief Simon Stiell, who is from Grenada, called on the world to “move away from fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas”.

‘This is huge’

However, that struggle was overshadowed by the historic compensation fund.

“Quite a lot of positives to celebrate between gloom and doom” of not reducing emissions fast enough, says climate scientist Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, which responds to climate disasters.

It’s a reflection of what can be done if the poorest nations stay united, said Alex Scott, a climate diplomacy expert at the E3G think tank.

“I think this is huge that governments are coming together to work out at least the first step of … how to deal with the problem of loss and damage,” Scott said.

But as with all climate finance, it’s one thing to create a fund, it’s another to keep money flowing in and out, she said. The developed world has still not lived up to its 2009 pledge to spend $100 billion a year on other climate aid – designed to help poor countries develop green energy and adapt to future warming.

Next year’s talks will also see further negotiations to work out the details of the new loss and damage fund, as well as the world’s efforts to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, which scientists say will slip out of reach.

Under the agreement, the fund would initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions.

While major emerging economies like China should not automatically contribute, that option remains on the table. This is a key demand from the EU and the United States, which claim that China and other major polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their way.

The fund would largely target the most vulnerable countries, although there would be room for middle-income countries hard hit by climate disasters to receive relief.

Martin Kaiser, the head of Greenpeace Germany, described the loss-and-damage agreement as a “little Band-Aid on a huge, gaping wound”.

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