Negotiations on a final declaration at the Cop27 UN climate conference in Egypt will continue into Saturday, a day longer than scheduled, amid deadlock over whether rich nations should provide funding to poorer countries affected by global warming.
Announcing the extension, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the Cop27 president, told chief delegates to speed up the talks, saying a deal must be reached by Saturday.
“I remain concerned at the number of outstanding issues, including on finance mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and their inter-linkages,” he said.
“Today, we need to shift gears again. Time is not on our side.”
Climate negotiators from about 200 countries were on Friday assessing a last-minute European proposal to break the deadlock over whether rich nations should pay to help poorer nations hit by climate change to rebuild after ruinous disasters including floods, drought and wildfires.
The deadlock in the talks is set against growing and alarming manifestations of the effect of climate change, including floods in Pakistan and Nigeria, drought in Africa and wildfires in North America, as well as record-hot temperatures in Europe. Small islands around the globe are also facing a grave threat from rising seas.
The issue, known as “loss and damage”, has become a stumbling block in preparing a final declaration before the close of Cop27 on Saturday in Sharm El Sheikh after nearly two weeks of talks.
The topic of loss and damage has been debated intensely by delegates in the Egyptian Red Sea resort in the past week and has created a fault line between rich nations that are chiefly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and developing countries hit hardest by climate change despite their negligible contribution to global emissions.
“It is not an easy issue and it’s very complicated,” said Wael Aboulmagd, a career Egyptian diplomat who is a representative of the Cop27’s Egyptian presidency.
The US and its EU allies insist that existing finance mechanisms are enough to help developing countries to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
They have also suggested the prospect of expanding them if needed.
They also argued that it would take years for a new mechanism to be fully functioning, whereas nations battered by climate change are in need of immediate assistance.
Their resistance is rooted in part in their fear that a fund to finance “loss and damage” would evolve into a reparations scheme carrying possible legal liability and enshrine divisions between the Global South and North.
The stand-off gave rise to charges by developing nations that the West was adopting policies reminiscent of exploitative practices dating back to colonial times.
The EU chief climate official, Frans Timmermans, has complained that the notion of one camp for developing nations and another for developed ones was antiquated and did not reflect the complexity of today’s world.
“We were the ones whose blood, sweat and tears financed the Industrial Revolution,” said Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados.
“Are we now to face double jeopardy by having to pay the cost as a result of those greenhouse gases from the Industrial Revolution?”
The EU proposal submitted late on Thursday night provides for the creation of a special fund for covering loss and damage in the most vulnerable countries but is funded from a “broad donor base”.
Mr Timmermans and other EU officials have suggested that major emitters outside the US and Europe, such as China, must contribute to loss and damage finance.
Other EU officials have in the course of the week also suggested that fossil fuel majors that have been raking in massive profits because of the energy crisis created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February should chip in.
“What we would propose is to establish a loss and damage response fund for the most vulnerable countries,” Mr Timmermans said.
“I have to say, this is our final offer. This is where the member states can find an agreement and I have to thank all of them for the courage to go this far. But this is it.
“We cannot afford to have a failure. Now, if our steps forward are not reciprocated, then obviously there will be a failure. But I hope we can avoid that.”
He said the EU proposal was also conditional on countries agreeing to step up their ambitions to slow climate change, including phasing down all power generation from fossil fuels and coal as quickly as possible. Under the plan, countries must submit progress reports.
Developing countries spearheading demands for a loss and damage fund at the summit ― a total of about 135 of the 198 countries represented in the talks ― are yet to collectively and publicly react to the EU proposal.
Mr Aboulmagd, the representative of the Egyptian Cop27 presidency, said the G77 group of developing nations was still holding on to its collective decision. He did not elaborate.
Mr Timmermans, however, said he was encouraged by some of the reactions he had received but added that negotiators needed time to read the EU proposal in its entirety.
“We’ll see today how they will react,” he said.
Loss and damage, however, is not the only issue holding back an agreement in Sharm El Sheikh.
Finding agreement on reaffirming a goal to limit average global temperature rises to 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels is another divisive issue.
Rich countries are also under pressure to fulfil past promises to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries green their economies and adapt to future climate change effects.
Pakistan’s Climate Minister Sherry Rehman, a third of whose country is under water from this year’s floods, expressed a willingness to “work with each other to find common ground”.
“It is up to all of us to steer a path that sends a powerful message from this Cop that the implementation Cop actually turned into a historic actionable Cop,” she said.
Agencies contributed to this report
Updated: November 19, 2022, 5:29 AM