Dispute over global warming targets leaves UN climate deal hanging in the balance

The outcome of the main UN climate talks was held up in tough talks over rolling back global warming targets on Saturday, after the EU dramatically threatened to pull out of the tough COP27 summit.

National negotiators said progress was being made on the previously deadlocked issue of “loss and damage” funding by rich countries for poorer countries suffering the effects of climate change.

But Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s climate minister, said a deal would only be approved if it included measures that would “keep 1.5 alive” – ​​a phrase that became the mantra of the EU’s COP26 talks. last year in Glasgow.

It references a 2015 Paris Agreement target to keep global warming well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial times, and ideally 1.5°C, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse effect.

A group of countries known as the ‘High Ambition Coalition’, which includes the UK, Germany and Spain, said on Saturday night that temperature targets and loss and damage funding needed to be reflected in the final COP27 agreement.

“One without the other is meaningless, otherwise we would accept disaster and not make efforts to avoid the worst of climate change,” said Susana Muhamad, Colombia’s environment minister.

Marshall Islands climate envoy Tina Stege, flanked by Britain’s Alok Sharma, right, and Germany’s Jennifer Morgan, far left, among others in the so-called High Ambition Coalition © SEDAT SUNA/EPA- EFE/Shutterstock

The summit was due to end on Friday but dragged on into the weekend as negotiators remained at odds on key issues.

“We don’t want 1.5C to die here today,” EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said on Saturday, as he issued an ultimatum.

“Everything is on the table, these are important issues, the capitals are calling each other,” said a European diplomat.

The question of how countries would step up their emissions cuts remained in play on Saturday, fueling concerns among some negotiators that the 1.5C target could be under threat.

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

“All ministers. . . like me, are ready to walk away if we don’t get an outcome that does justice to what the world expects, 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 among the countries resisting EU proposals © AP

China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia were among the countries that resisted increased action to cut emissions, according to people familiar with the talks.

While climate COPs are always hectic and rarely end on time, it is unusual for a large group of Western countries like the EU to threaten a last-minute walkout.

“No one should underestimate” the threat of withdrawal from the EU, said Romina Pourmokhtari, Sweden’s climate and environment minister. “There is no one here who is willing to go back to our countries and explain to them why we backed down.”

The bloc 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 President Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, said on Saturday that the draft text of the final agreement would maintain the 1.5C target while adopting a “holistic approach to address the challenges of climate change”.

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

“There’s never a perfect solution, but I’ve been working hard to provide the foundation we can move forward on,” Shoukry said. “Reaching a point of convergence takes some effort.”

There were also concerns about how the Egyptian presidency was handling the summit. “I’ve never experienced anything like it: non-transparent, unpredictable and chaotic,” said one delegate.

Country negotiating teams had little time to review updated texts for several key outstanding issues in the early hours of the morning; it was “not standard procedure”, an EU official said.

Additional reporting by Emiliya Mychasuk and Pilita Clark in Sharm el-Sheikh

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Teresa H. Sadler