With just hours to go to reach an international climate deal, US climate envoy John Kerry has tested positive for Covid-19 at the United Nations COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, his spokesman Whitney said Smith.
Smith said in a statement that Kerry is “experiencing mild symptoms” and self-isolating at the summit. As talks reach a critical point, he is “working with his negotiating team and foreign counterparts by phone to ensure a successful outcome of COP27.”
It’s bad timing for the top US climate negotiator to get sick; the last Friday of the annual summit is always a crucial moment for negotiators to reach an agreement that can be agreed upon by nearly 200 countries. But this year the issues are particularly thorny – the US is showing great restraint on the critical issue of a loss and damage fund, which would help the world’s developing and most vulnerable countries recover from climate catastrophes they did not themselves create .
Loss and damage is not the only outstanding issue. World leaders at COP27 are also frantically trying to broker a deal that would safeguard the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Just hours before the Sharm el-Sheikh summit was due to officially end on Friday – and as the conference venue was being dismantled around negotiators – this year’s COP chairman Sameh Shoukry said he was “concerned” about the lack of progress from the great so far.
“I remain concerned about the number of outstanding issues, including finance, mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and their interrelationships,” Shoukry told the conference.
“Today we have to switch gears again. Time is not on our side,” he added.
Egypt’s COP presidency adopted a relaxed approach to Covid-19 during the conference. The organizers did not require participants to be vaccinated or show a negative Covid-19 test at registration, although they “strongly recommended” that attendees be up-to-date with their vaccinations before arriving.
Masks, too, were completely optional and rarely seen in the venue – although the number of people wearing them increased noticeably in recent days.
As the number of people testing positive grew and news of a possible outbreak began to spread, more attendees began masking up. But even on Friday, when news of Kerry’s positive test broke, most people remained without masks.
The Chinese delegation stood out for strictly requiring anyone wishing to set foot in the country’s pavilion to mask and sanitize their hands.