Fraught UN climate talks enter endgame with EU 'final offer'

UN climate talks entered their last day Friday with rich and developing nations deadlocked over creating a fund for countries devastated by the impacts of global warming — and the EU warning its offer was final.

Representatives from nearly 200 countries have gathered at the COP27 in Egypt for two weeks with the aim of driving forward action on climate change as the world faces a worsening onslaught of extreme floods, heat waves and droughts.

The daunting list of urgent tasks includes finding agreement — and funds — for the emissions cuts needed to limit average warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, which scientists say is a safer guardrail to avoid the most dangerous impacts.

For many developing countries — and small island states most threatened by sea level rise — the defining issues at the conference is money for the “loss and damage” caused by climate change impacts.

A cascade of climate-driven extremes in recent months — from floods in Pakistan and Nigeria to heatwaves and droughts across the world — have shone a spotlight on the ferocious impacts of a warming world for developing nations that are also struggling with debts and surging inflation.

Disagreement over creating a specific loss and damage fund has threatened to derail the entire summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, though negotiations could go into overtime through the weekend.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said late Thursday there was “clearly a breakdown in trust” between developed and emerging economies as he called for deal on loss and damage, warning that “the blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction”.

– ‘This is our final offer’ –

Developing countries have pushed for COP27 to agree on creating the funding facility — an idea that has faced reluctance from richer polluters wary of liability.

The European Union, however, made an offer late Thursday to create a fund to help the most vulnerable countries that would be part of a “mosaic” of options for providing money from a range of sources.

That would potentially include China and other nations that have become wealthier since they were listed as developing countries in 1992.

“I have to say this is our final offer,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters on Friday.

“This is where the (EU) member states can find an agreement and I have to thank all of them for for the courage to go this far. But this is it,” he said.

Earlier in the week, the 130-nation group known as G77+China issued a proposal to create the fund at the COP27 and agree on the nitty-gritty details at the next UN climate talks in Dubai in 2023.

But their offer stated that the fund would assist “developing nations” in broader terms than the EU’s proposal and be funded by developed nations.

Timmermans said the EU offer had two “very important” conditions: that the funds should be for “the most vulnerable” nations and the money should come from a “broad funder base” — code for countries including China.

– US silence –

A draft outline of positions on loss and damage published on the COP27 website late Thursday included some key elements of the main proposals on the issue, providing a starting point for negotiations to begin in earnest.

But a separate 10-page draft of the COP27 final statement released Friday morning only had a placeholder for a “funding arrangement responding to loss and damage” — signalling that nations had yet to agree on the final text.

It includes, however, a line reaffirming the aspirational goal of limiting warming to 1.5C, a key demand from the United States and European Union.

The United States, which had opposed a loss and damage mechanism in the past over concerns about liability, has said it was willing to discuss the issue, but it has yet to publicly comment on the EU proposal.

Timmermans said he explained the EU proposal to US delegates who were “very interested in seeing” that reaffirming the need to step up efforts to cut emissions to reach the 1.5C target be reflected in the conclusions.

“We’ve always fought together with the Americans to get strong language on mitigation because we all know if we don’t reduce our emissions, all the other efforts will come to nought,” he said.

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