COP27: Negotiators reach tentative agreement on loss and damage at UN climate summit

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Negotiators at the UN’s COP27 climate summit have reached a tentative agreement to create a loss and damage fund for countries vulnerable to climate disaster, said negotiators with the European Union and Africa, as well as non-governmental organizations leading the talks. to observe.

But it’s not settled yet – an EU source directly involved in the negotiations warned that the deal is part of the larger COP27 agreement that needs to be ratified by nearly 200 countries. A US official declined to confirm the tentative deal, citing ongoing negotiations.

The EU source said the negotiators are now reporting to their groups.

But progress has been made, the source said. In a discussion on Saturday afternoon, Egypt time, the EU managed to get the G77 country bloc to agree to focus the fund on vulnerable countries, which could pave the way for a loss and damage deal.

If completed, the deal would represent a major breakthrough on the international stage, far exceeding expectations from this year’s climate summit, and the mood among some delegates was jubilant.

Countries most vulnerable to climate catastrophes — but which have contributed little to the climate crisis — have struggled for years to secure a damage fund.

Developed countries that have traditionally produced the most global warming emissions have been hesitant to sign on to a fund they believed could open them up to legal liability for climate disasters.

Details of how the fund would operate remain murky. The preliminary text says a fund will be established this year, but it leaves many questions about when it will be finalized and operational, climate experts told reporters on Saturday. The text talks about a transition committee that will help set those details, but does not set any future deadlines.

“There are no guarantees on the timeline,” World Resources Institute Africa director of resilience Nisha Krishnan told reporters.

Damage fund advocates welcomed the progress, but noted that the design is not ideal.

“We are happy with this outcome because this is what developed countries wanted, although not everything they came here for,” Erin Roberts, founder of the Loss and Damage Collaboration, told CNN in a statement. “Like many, I too have been conditioned to expect very little from this process. While the creation of the fund is certainly a victory for developing countries and those on the frontline of climate change, it is an empty shell with no funding. It is far too little, far too late for those on the front lines of climate change. But we will work on it.”

At COP27, demand for a loss and damage fund – from developing countries, the G77 bloc and activists – had reached fever pitch, driven by a number of major climate disasters this year, including the devastating floods in Pakistan.

The conference went into overtime on Saturday, with negotiators still working out the details as workers dismantled the site around them. At some points there was a real feeling of tiredness and frustration.

Earlier in the day, EU officials threatened to leave the meeting if the final agreement does not endorse the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Global scientists have been warning for decades to limit warming to 1.5 degrees – a threshold fast approaching as the average global temperature has already risen to about 1.1 degrees. Above 1.5 degrees, the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages will dramatically increase, scientists said in the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In a carefully choreographed press conference Saturday morning, EU Green Deal Czar Frans Timmermans, flanked by a full lineup of ministers and other top officials from EU member states, said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

“We don’t want 1.5 degrees Celsius to die here and today. That is completely unacceptable to us,” he said.

The EU made it clear that it was willing to agree to a loss and damage fund – a major shift in its stance from just a week ago – but only in exchange for a strong commitment to the 1.5 degree target.

Meanwhile, the US remained largely invisible on Saturday, with its key player, US climate envoy John Kerry, self-isolating with Covid-19.

As the sun set on Sharm el-Sheikh, the mood turned to tentative cheers, with groups of negotiators beginning to suggest a deal was in sight.

But as is always the case with diplomacy at the highest level, officials were quick to emphasize that there is no real agreement until the final gavel falls.

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