Climate Negotiators Seek Deal as COP27 Goes Into Overtime
Last-minute negotiations running past the scheduled closing time have been a recurring feature of recent COP summits.
Nevertheless, the 2022 event was seen as a crucial test of global commitment to containing climate change, in light of a war in Europe and rapidly rising energy prices distracting governments the world over.
"I remain committed to bring this conference to a close tomorrow in an orderly manner, with the adoption of a series of consensus decisions that will be comprehensive, ambitious, and balanced," COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's foreign minister, told reporters late on Friday.
"It will be an intensive day, probably an intensive night, too," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in Sharm el-Sheikh. "A lot of ground is still before us, but none of the questions still open are insoluble, if we are honestly prepared to make collective progress on behalf of us all."
What appears to have been agreed so far?
A draft statement released early on Friday suggested that a deal had been reached for the almost 200 participating countries to reaffirm past commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels.
This is one point at which scientists say the effects of climate change will start to get worse and harder to reverse or decelerate.
The statement would "reaffirm" that doing this requires rapid and deep cuts in carbon emissions in the coming years.
Although critics have in the past said that this particular commitment does little to lay out how to achieve the goal it states.
The text would give countries until next November to lay out short-term plans for the current decade, and encourage them to start submitting longer-term plans.
Observers also noted that the draft specifically refers to "renewable energy," rather than "low-carbon" or "clean" energy at several points, which has not been the case in any COP statement since 2015. Critics said this language was designed to allow other power sources with relatively low CO2 emissions like nuclear or gas to be counted.
'Loss and damage' deal elusive
One key sticking point is an agreement on so-called "loss and damage" payments. This would involve compensation from developed to less developed economies suffering the effects of climate change, which in many cases did little to cause it historically.
A group of more than 100 developing countries and China had put forward a proposal for a global fund to be established, but it met resistance from the EU and US.
The EU said it was prepared to compromise on Friday. It suggested establishing a fund but floated two additional stipulations.
The EU's climate affairs commissioner, Frans Timmermans, said the fund should provide compensation payments only to the countries most affected, not all developing countries. He also said the funds should come from a "broader fund base," language deemed to mean that countries like China or Saudi Arabia should also contribute.
Western countries tend to argue that China, now the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter by some margin, should be treated in a similar manner to countries that industrialized earlier. Beijing often counters that its per-capita emissions remain lower than the West's, and that, until recently, its historical contribution to climate change was smaller.
Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told reporters earlier that countries were "close" to an agreement on loss and damage but that "the funds should include all large emitters, which would include a country like China, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar."
Deals at COP27 must be made with support from all of the nearly 200 countries present.
India, resource-rich Africa at odds on oil and gas
An Indian appeal for a call to cut reliance on coal power to be extended to all fossil fuels has also hit an impasse.
Resistance has hailed in particular from resource-rich African countries, many eyeing oil and gas reserves that they have barely begun exploiting and saying they could be crucial drivers of development.
The incomplete draft circulating on Friday still only mentioned coal.
Influential US negotiator John Kerry catches COVID
Further complicating matters, influential US climate envoy John Kerry had to go into seclusion on Friday after testing positive for COVID-19.
Kerry had alluded to his audibly deep voice when speaking at the summit on Thursday but had said at that point that he had tested negative. Friday's test read differently.
The former secretary of state and presidential candidate had been engaging in shuttle diplomacy with delegates from China, the EU, Brazil, the UAE and others in recent days.
"He is working with his negotiations team and foreign counterparts by phone to ensure a successful outcome of COP27,'' spokeswoman Whitney Smith wrote in a statement
As dawn approached on Saturday in Egypt, that successful outcome was scheduled for the day's end.
msh/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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