EU threatens to walk away from UN climate talks

The EU has made a dramatic threat to walk away from Egypt’s fraught COP27 climate talks over renewed concerns that the UN summit could fall back on previous agreements to limit global warming.

“We don’t want 1.5°C to die here today,” said EU climate chief Frans Timmermans, referring to a goal in the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2°C relative to pre-industrial times, and ideally 1.5°C.

The summit was due to end on Friday but was extended to the weekend as negotiators continued to disagree on key issues. These include a proposal that rich countries should provide “loss and damage” financing to poorer countries suffering the effects of climate change, where negotiations have stalled.

“Everything is on the table, these are high stakes, capitals are mentioned,” said a European diplomat.

The question of how countries would step up their emission reductions was also at stake Friday evening, leading some negotiators to worry that the 1.5°C target could be jeopardized.

“We’d rather have no decision than a bad decision,” Timmermans told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday.

“All ministers . . . as I am willing to walk away if we don’t get a result that does justice to what the world is waiting for, which is that we do something about this climate crisis,” he said.

Sun Zhen, China’s deputy director general for climate change, is at the COP talks. China is one of the countries opposing EU proposals © AP

China and Saudi Arabia were among countries opposing more measures to cut emissions, as well as the EU’s proposal on “loss and damage” funding for the most vulnerable countries, according to those with knowledge of the discussions.

While climate COPs are always tricky and rarely end on time, it is unusual for a large group of Western countries, such as the EU, to threaten a strike at the last minute.

“No one should underestimate the EU’s threat to leave the EU,” said Romina Pourmokhtari, Sweden’s climate and environment minister. “There is no one here who is willing to return to our countries and explain to them why we have stepped back.”

The bloc has stressed the importance of building on last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact, which included a commitment to reduce the use of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

COP27 chair Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, said on Saturday that the draft text of the final agreement would keep the 1.5C target alive while taking a “holistic approach to dealing with the challenges of climate change”.

Shoukry said there was “equal dissatisfaction in all circles”, but insisted that the “vast majority” of parties find a basis for an agreement.

“There’s never a perfect solution, but I’ve made an effort to lay the groundwork on which we can move forward,” Shoukry said. “Getting to a point of convergence takes some effort.”

There were also concerns about how the Egyptian presidency handled the summit. “I have never experienced anything like it: opaque, unpredictable and chaotic,” said one delegate.

The countries’ negotiating teams were given only a short time in the early hours of the morning to review updated texts on a number of key outstanding issues; this was “not a usual procedure”, said an EU official.

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