UN climate talks ready for agreement to set up disaster fund

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Negotiators say they have reached a possible landmark deal on the most sensitive issue of the United Nations climate talks, the creation of a fund to compensate poor nations who are victims of extreme weather conditions caused by carbon of rich nations are aggravated by pollution.

“There is an agreement on casualties and damage,” is what negotiators are calling the concept, Maldives environment minister Aminath Shauna told The Associated Press on Saturday. It still has to be approved unanimously in a vote today. “It means that for countries like ours, we will have the mosaic of solutions that we have been campaigning for.”

“We proposed a text and it was just adopted, so now we have a fund,” Norway’s Minister for Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide told AP.

New Zealand climate minister James Shaw said both the poor countries, which would get the money, and the rich, which would give it, are in favor of the proposed deal.

If approved, it will be a major win for poorer nations, who for decades have been demanding compensation — sometimes even called reparations — for often being victims of climate-related disasters despite having done little to the pollution heating the globe. It’s a reflection of what can be done if they stay united, said Alex Scott, climate diplomacy expert at think tank E3G.

“I think it’s tremendous that governments are coming together to work out at least the first step of how to deal with the problem of loss and damage,” Scott said. But like all climate finance, it’s one thing to set up a fund, it’s another to let money flow in and out, she said. Developed countries have still not lived up to their 2009 pledge to spend $100 billion annually on other climate aid – designed to help poor nations develop green energy and adapt to future warming.

“The draft loss and damage funding decision gives hope to vulnerable people that they will receive help to recover from climate-related disasters and rebuild their lives,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International.

The Chinese negotiator declined to comment on a possible deal. The US negotiating office where Special Envoy John Kerry fell ill with COVID-19, declined to comment. China and the US are the two biggest CO2 polluters. European negotiators huddled over proposals.

Alok Sharma, the British official who chaired the climate talks in Glasgow last year, said the details of the deal have yet to be worked out.

“We continue to discuss,” he said as he rushed with aides to a meeting at the Egyptian presidency office.

The Egyptian presidency, which had been criticized from all quarters, proposed a new loss and damage deal on Saturday afternoon and an agreement was reached within hours, but Norway’s Eide said it was not so much the Egyptians as the countries that work together.

According to the draft proposal, developed countries from Egypt would be “pushed” to contribute to the fund, which would also draw on other private and public sources of money such as international financial institutions.

“We managed to make progress on an important result,” said Wael Aboulmagd, who heads the Egyptian delegation.

However, the Egyptian proposal does not require large emerging economies like China to contribute to the fund, which has been a key demand from the European Union and the United States.

Nor does the Egyptian proposal tie the establishment of the new fund to stepping up efforts to reduce emissions or limit recipients of the funds to the most vulnerable countries, which was an earlier proposal by the Europeans.

A second overarching document leading the climate talks, also released by the Egyptian presidency on Saturday, ignores India’s call to phase out oil and natural gas, in addition to last year’s agreement to turn the world away from “unabated” coal.

The package of drafts released by the Egyptian Presidency on efforts to step up emissions cuts and the overall decision of this year’s talks hardly build on what was agreed in Glasgow last year.

The Egyptian package includes a reference to the Paris Agreement’s less ambitious goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit)”, which scientists say is far too risky.

It also doesn’t propose new near-term targets for developing or developed countries, which experts say are needed to meet the more ambitious 1.5 degrees (2.7 F) target, which would prevent some of the more extreme effects of climate change.

Earlier on Saturday, government delegations and the Egyptian hosts of the COP27 meeting pointed fingers at each other.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said responsibility for the fate of the talks was “now in the hands of Egypt’s COP Presidency”.

Hours later, an agreement was reached.

Before speaking as chair of the summit, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry deflected blame before reaching an agreement.

“The question now depends on the will of the parties,” Shoukry said at a news conference. “It is the parties that must face up to the situation and take responsibility for finding the areas of convergence and moving forward.”

He added that “everyone must show the necessary flexibility” to reach a consensus and that Egypt is merely “facilitating this process”.

Throughout the climate summit, the American, Chinese, Indian and Saudi Arabian delegations kept a low profile while European, African, Pakistani and small island nations became more vocal.

Many of the more than 40,000 attendees have left the city, and workers began packing up the huge pavilions in the sprawling conference zone.

UN climate meetings have evolved into trade fairs over the years, with many countries and industry groups putting up stands and displays for meetings and panel discussions.

At many booths, chairs had been neatly stacked for removal and monitors had been removed, leaving cables dangling from the walls. Leaflets and pamphlets were strewn across tables and floors. Snack bars, which Egyptian organizers said would remain open throughout the weekend, have been emptied.

At the youth pavilion, a meeting place for young activists, a stack of handwritten postcards from children to negotiators was left on a table, perhaps an apt metaphor for the state of affairs as talks stalled.

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

An occasional gust of wind from the open doors nearby blew some of the cards to the ground.


Kelvin Chan and Theodora Tongas contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s climate and environmental reporting at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment


The Associated Press’s climate and environmental reporting is supported by several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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