Government ministers and negotiators from nearly 200 countries on Tuesday began the slog of finding common ground for a deal at the annual U.N. climate summit, as host country Egypt assured that the slow-moving talks were on track.
Some delegates began to discuss the possibility the summit would go overtime into the weekend, with countries snagged on issues including funding for developing nations to combat and adapt to climate change.
The G77 bloc of developing countries and China are proposing a ‘loss and damage‘ fund should be created to provide money to countries already hit by climate disasters, a draft text of their proposal to the COP27 summit showed.
The subject has for the first time made it onto the official COP agenda, after years of resistance from rich nations concerned it could open them up to limitless liabilities for contributing the bulk of historic greenhouse gas emissions.
Egypt’s special representative to the COP27 summit, Wael Aboulmagd, said sticking points remained, but that countries have to strike a deal.
“The future of humanity, without exaggeration, is at stake,” he said. “So we can just push and encourage and use all the tools in our toolbox. But at the end of the day, 190-something sovereigns must agree.”
Country delegates also monitored negotiations at the G20 summit in Bali, where China’s President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, leaders of the two most polluting nations, agreed on Monday to resume cooperation on climate change.
Shauna Aminath, climate minister for the Maldives, said a strong signal from the G20 could be a positive spur for COP27.
“I hope leaders in G20 are able to have a constructive dialogue despite the geopolitical differences and understand that climate change could actually be something that unites us,” she said.
Egypt’s COP27 Presidency on Monday released a two-page sketch of what could become a deal, with bullet points outlining issues countries have put forward for debate – including the most contentious.
It mentioned the urgency of action to keep within reach the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 Celsius above preindustrial levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Temperatures have already increased by 1.1C.
“We cannot lose 1.5 at this COP,” said Alok Sharma, president of last year’s COP26 climate summit in Scotland.
But with little mention in the paper of burning fossil fuels – the main cause of global warming – the result of COP27 may instead focus on new commitments to get poorer nations cash to slow their emissions.
The draft released on Monday is entitled a “non-paper,” making clear it is not an official draft of the core political agreement to be approved by countries at the summit’s close, scheduled for Friday.
“It’s all boiling down to the last days,” EU environment policy chief Virginijus Sinkevicius said on the sidelines of the summit. “It seems like still we are quite far from what we would love to have as an outcome.”
Brazil’s top diplomat at the talks said delegations were circulating other proposed texts, but they were not ready to be made public.
“It’s natural, as time runs out, to reach more concrete and more ambitious decisions,” Paulino de Carvalho Neto said, adding it was possible Friday’s deadline might be missed.
Belize negotiator Carlos Fuller said countries discussing the document on Tuesday could end up adding more to the “laundry list” of issues so far outlined.
India surprised some countries last week by pushing for a deal at the summit to phase down all fossil fuels – rather than just coal, as countries had agreed at last year’s U.N. summit.
The European Union supports the idea, the bloc’s climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said on Tuesday, but only if it does not weaken previous agreements on reducing the use of coal.
India is among the biggest coal users and its proposal would serve to widen the focus.
Big oil and gas producers were not keen.
Saudi energy ministry official and COP27 negotiator Khalid Abuleif said his country, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ biggest producer, was worried the final talks would “demonise” the fossil fuel industry.
A section in the draft on loss and damage – funding for developing countries facing unavoidable damage caused by climate change – suggested the deal would address the “need for funding arrangements” to tackle this.
It did not give any hint of whether the final deal will include a loss and damage fund – which developing countries are demanding in the negotiations, while the European Union and United States are wary.
The failure by rich nations to deliver in full on a past pledge to deliver $100 billion in annual climate finance to developing countries has rankled in recent years. Last year, wealthy nations paid about $83 billion toward the goal, and said they’d meet the full pledge only in 2023.
One of Egypt’s top climate envoys, U.N. High-Level Climate Champion Mahmoud Mohieldin, was seen Tuesday wearing a red lapel button reading “#WTF” – the slogan standing for “where’s the finance?”
“We cannot afford a further erosion of trust between the developed and developing countries,” Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa said.
“Let us make COP27 the turning point in our efforts to make the rhetoric history and the mirages real,” Mataafa said.
Tom Evans, a policy analyst at non-profit think tank E3G, said the G20 could be a better guide to the final deal than the draft text in circulation.
“Many of the issues hinted at in this paper are under live discussion at the G20 leaders summit,” he said, adding that what Group of 20 country leaders decide on Tuesday and Wednesday in Bali, including on phasing down fossil fuels, could steer the COP27 summit’s outcome.
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