UN climate talks are on the verge of reaching an agreement on the creation of a disaster fund

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Negotiators say they have struck a potentially game-changing deal on the thorniest issue of the United Nations climate talks in Egypt: the creation of a fund to compensate poor countries hit by harsh conditions. extreme weather exacerbated by rich countries’ carbon pollution.

Several cabinet ministers around the world have told The Associated Press that an agreement has been reached on a fund for what negotiators call loss and damage. It’s a big win for poorer countries that have long been crying out for money – sometimes seen as reparations – because they often fall victim to climate disasters despite having contributed little to the pollution that warms the world. world.

“This is how our 30-year-old journey has finally, we hope, culminated today,” said Pakistani Climate Minister Sherry Rehman, who has often taken the lead of the world’s poorest nations. . A third of her country was submerged in a devastating flood this summer and she and other officials have used the motto: “What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan”.

The United States, which in the past has been reluctant to even talk about the issue of loss and damage, is “working to sign”, said an official close to the negotiations.

If a deal is accepted, it still needs to be approved by a unanimous decision late on Saturday evening. But other parts of a deal, outlined in a set of proposals presented earlier today by the Egyptian talks’ presidents, are still being worked out as negotiators move towards what they hope will be their last session.

Both developed and developing countries were very concerned about proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, known as mitigation. Officials said Egypt’s proposed language backtracks on some of the pledges made in Glasgow to keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. . The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the mid-19th century.

Some of the Egyptian language on mitigation apparently went back to the 2015 Paris agreement, which was before scientists knew how crucial the 1.5 degree threshold was and heavily mentioned a weaker goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is why scientists and Europeans are afraid to go back, said climatologist Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre.

Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said: “We need to reach agreement on 1.5 degrees. We need strong language on mitigation and that’s what we’re going to push.

Yet attention has focused on the compensation fund, which has also been called a justice issue.

“There is an agreement on loss and damage,” Maldives Environment Minister Aminath Shauna told the AP early Saturday afternoon after a meeting with other delegations. “It means that for countries like ours, we will have the patchwork of solutions that we advocate.”

New Zealand Climate Minister James Shaw said the poor countries that would receive the money and the rich that would give it were on board with the proposed deal.

It’s a reflection of what can be done when poorer nations stay together, said Alex Scott, climate diplomacy expert at think tank E3G.

“I think it’s huge that governments are coming together to work on at least the first step of…how to deal with loss and damage,” Scott said. But like all climate finance, it’s one thing to set up a fund, it’s another to get money in and out, she said. The developed world has still not delivered on its 2009 promise to spend $100 billion a year on other climate aid – designed to help poor countries develop green energy and adapt to future warming.

“The Loss and Damage Financing Draft Decision offers hope to vulnerable people that they will get help to recover from climate disasters and rebuild their lives,” said Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Policy Strategy at Climate Action Network International.

China’s chief negotiator would not comment on a possible deal. EU negotiators have said they are ready to back the deal, but have refused to say so publicly until the whole package has been approved.

Egypt’s presidency, which had been criticized by all parties, proposed a new loss and damage deal on Saturday afternoon and within hours a deal was reached, but Norway’s climate and environment minister, Espen Barth Eide, said it was not so much the Egyptians as the countries. work together.

Under the latest draft, the fund would initially rely on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions. While large emerging economies such as China would initially not be required to contribute, this option remains on the table and will be negotiated over the next few years. This is a key demand from the European Union and the United States, which argue that China and other major polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their share.

The planned fund would largely go to the most vulnerable nations, although there is room for middle-income countries badly hit by climate disasters to get help.

A global decision that sums up the outcome of climate talks does not include India’s call to phase out oil and natural gas, in addition to last year’s deal to wean the world off coal “tirelessly”.

Several wealthy and developing countries on Saturday called for a last-minute push to step up emissions cuts, warning that the outcome barely builds on what was agreed in Glasgow last year.

It also does not require developing countries such as China and India to submit new targets before 2030. Experts say these are needed to meet the more ambitious 1.5 degree Celsius target which prevent some of the most extreme effects of climate change.

Throughout the climate summit, delegations from the United States, China, India and Saudi Arabia kept a low public profile, while European, African, Pakistani and small island nations were more vocal.

Many of the more than 40,000 attendees left town and workers began packing up the sprawling pavilions of the sprawling conference area.

UN climate meetings have evolved over the years to resemble trade fairs, with many countries and industry groups setting up booths and displays for the meetings and roundtables.

In many booths, chairs were neatly stacked ready to be removed, and monitors had been swept away, leaving cables hanging from the walls. Pamphlets and pamphlets were strewn all over the tables and floors. Snack bars, which Egyptian organizers said would remain open all weekend, were emptied.

At the Youth Pavilion, a gathering place for young activists, a stack of handwritten postcards from children to negotiators were left on a table.

“Dear COP27 negotiators,” reads one card. “Keep fighting for a good planet.”

David Keyton, Theodora Tongas and Kelvin Chan contributed to this report.

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