UN Secretary-General António Guterres has flown to Egypt to try to save the difficult climate talks and warns of a “break in trust” between rich and poor governments that could dashed hopes of an agreement.
He urged countries entering the final day of the UN’s Cop27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh to find common ground. “As in the past, there has clearly been a breach of trust between North and South and between developed and emerging economies,” he said. “This is no time for finger pointing. The blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction.”
Guterres appeared Thursday alongside Egyptian Foreign Minister and President of the Talks Sameh Shoukry, who was gloomy about the state of negotiations with just one full day left of official negotiations.
“It is obviously clear that at this late stage in the Cop27 process there are still a number of issues where progress is lacking, with ongoing disagreements between the parties,” Shoukry said.
There are four main concerns: countries’ plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels; how to help poor countries adapt to the effects of the climate crisis; funding for poor countries to reduce emissions and adapt to extreme weather conditions; and losses and damages, which include ways to help countries hit by the worst of the ravages of climate catastrophe.
Shoukry listed severe setbacks in each. “The Mitigation Work Program [on cutting emissions] has not yet achieved the desired result. The adjustment is still slowed down by procedural issues. Ambitious results in the area of finance have not yet materialized. And in terms of casualties and damage, the parties shy away from making the difficult political decisions,” he said.
Guterres – who warned in a Guardian interview before Cop27 that without a “historic pact” between rich and poor nations “we are doomed” – appealed to governments.
“Send a clear signal that the voices of those on the frontlines of the crisis are finally being heard,” he said. “Reflect the urgency, scale and magnitude of the challenge facing so many developing countries. We cannot continue to deny climate justice to those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis and are hurting the most.”
The fortnightly talks have just one day left before the official deadline on Friday evening, but will almost certainly continue into the weekend.
Earlier in the day, the Egyptian presidency released an early draft of a possible “cover text” that aims to list the main outcomes of the talks. The 20-page document listed resolutions on issues ranging from food and agriculture to youth advocacy. However, there were gaps in the substantive questions, filled with “placeholder” text indicating no deal was close.
It reflects the lack of progress made in reconciling rich and poor nations on how to pay for the rebuilding of countries devastated by climate breakdown, which the talks described as loss and damage.
Many poor nations want a new financing facility that will quickly raise money and distribute it to affected areas. Rich countries, however, are willing to discuss ways to finance losses and damage, but are unconvinced that a whole new financing facility is needed, as several global climate finance institutions already exist with varying degrees of success.
Sir Molwyn Joseph, Government Minister in Antigua and Barbuda and Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States, said: “You [developed countries] say they understand our circumstances. If they understand our circumstances, why should they hesitate? [to set up a fund]?”
He said poor countries were losing confidence in the UN talks. “There has to be a mechanism [for funding loss and damage]. Whether you call it a fund or an entity,” he said. “If that weren’t the case, there would be a sense of betrayal.”
Debate on the draft text should continue until Thursday evening. One question was whether to include language recognizing that the world needs to “phase out all fossil fuels”. The push, led by India and civil society groups, has gained momentum over the two weeks, drawing support from the US, EU and UK. But it is opposed by Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
The draft text released by the Cop27 presidency on Thursday instead contained only a reference to the phasing out of coal power, which was first agreed at Cop26 in Glasgow last year.
There were also concerns that the wording of the 1.5C target was too weak. British President of last year’s summit, Alok Sharma, led a small delegation to the Egyptian Presidency to call for greater commitment to keeping temperatures within the 1.5 degree mark, beyond which the effects of the climate crisis are likely to be catastrophic and in many cases become irreversible. ‘Keeping 1.5°C alive’ was the key outcome of the Glasgow talks.
A negotiator from a developing country expressed concern about the Egyptian Presidency’s handling of the process of drafting a cover text. “I really don’t know if we’re going to get a proper final text,” they said. “It will really depend on how far countries are willing to take things. Some may say that unless there is agreement on loss and damage, there is no outcome.”
Greenpeace UK policy chief Rebecca Newsom said: “Success at Cop27 is now a test of political will. It is a test of whether world leaders will stand up for their citizens, for justice and for the environment we all depend on – or whether they will prevail on fossil fuel lobbyists and self-interest.”