Egypt’s COP27 climate talks, which were close to collapsing in the closing stages, ended with an early hours deal to set up a fund to pay poorer countries for the damage caused by climate change.
The loss and damage agreement is a landmark in global climate politics – an acknowledgment that richer countries are responsible to the developing world for the damage caused by rising temperatures.
But the troubled summit, which took place against the backdrop of a global energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, exposed fault lines over how the world should navigate the transition away from fossil fuels. And it did little to further the ambitions of last year’s COP in Glasgow to rein in harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“While progress on loss and damage has been encouraging, it is disappointing that the decision largely copied and pasted language from Glasgow on reducing emissions, rather than taking significant new steps,” said Ani Dasgupta, CEO of the company. World Resource Institute. “It is baffling that countries have not mustered the courage to call for the phase-out of fossil fuels, which are the biggest driver of climate change.”
The final agreement came after 9 a.m. local time after an all-night marathon final. The closing day began with a threat from the European Union to walk away if the text did not reinforce its ambition to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and, in the end, there was no blanket pledge to phase out all fossil fuels and no target to reduce global emissions. to decline by 2025. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock complained of opposition from “an alliance of oil-rich countries and big emitters”.
Nevertheless, the agreement on damage is a breakthrough, even if it is not clear how a fund will be financed or structured. It came after a spate of last-minute negotiations on how to deal with the mounting toll climate change is taking on developing countries that have contributed little to the emissions it causes. The issue took on a new urgency following monsoon flooding this summer in Pakistan, which left more than 1,700 dead and caused at least $30 billion in losses.
Just getting the issue on the formal negotiating agenda was seen as a milestone. Even then it seemed unlikely that COP27 talks would lead to a new compensation fund.
“We have struggled on this path for 30 years and today, in Sharm El-Sheikh, this journey has reached its first positive milestone,” said Pakistan’s Climate Minister Sherry Rehman. “Setting up a fund is not about giving charity. It is clearly a down payment on the longer investment in our shared future.”
Looking ahead, COP President Sameh Shoukry vowed to work out what a loss-and-damage fund will look like over the next year before handing over the presidency to the UAE. The Sharm El-Sheikh agreement calls for a committee with representatives from 24 countries to determine which countries and financial institutions should contribute and where the money should go. The committee will have two co-chairs, one from a developed country and one from a developing country.
At the same time, global energy scarcity is unlikely to make the task of reducing fossil fuel emissions any easier and Baerbock’s comments highlight one of the core tensions in the global climate debate after Saudi Arabia and others resisted language calling for a broad phase-out of fossil fuels.
“It is beyond frustrating to see overdue mitigation and fossil energy phase-out steps being held back by a number of major emitters and oil producers,” Baerbock said. “The world is losing valuable time moving towards 1.5 degrees Celsius,” she said, referring to the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting rising temperatures.
That disappointment was shared by some of the countries hardest hit by climate change and rising sea levels.
“We heard that the majority of parties in more than 80 countries attending this COP expressed concern and support for stronger mitigation measures,” said Prime Minister Kausea Natano of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. “But that’s not reflected in the coverage decision ahead of us and that’s our challenge for the next 12 months leading up to Dubai.”
By John Ainger, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Antony Sguazzin, Akshat Rathi
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