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COP27 climate talks hurtle towards overtime, countries mull EU offer of fund

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A European Union proposal buoyed hopes of progress at the COP27 climate summit on Friday, its final scheduled day, as the 27-country EU said it would back one of the toughest agenda items – financing for countries wracked by climate-fuelled disasters.

But with several other sticking points dogging this year’s U.N. climate talks, host country Egypt said a final deal was still not expected before the weekend.

“I remain committed to bring this conference to a close tomorrow in an orderly manner, with the adoption of a series of consensus decisions that will be comprehensive, ambitious, and balanced,” COP27 President Sameh Shoukry told reporters.

The two-week conference at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is a test of global resolve to combat planetary warming at a time that climate-driven storms, floods, droughts and wildfire compete for governments’ attention with a war in Europe and soaring inflation.

Negotiations were energized after the European Union said late on Thursday that it would back the demand of the G77 group of 134 developing countries to set up a fund to help countries cope with “loss and damage”, the irreparable damage being wrought by climate change.

But it was unclear Friday if all of those countries would accept the EU’s offer of a fund to aid only “the most vulnerable countries”, rather than all developing countries as they had requested.

The climate minister for the Maldives, which faces inundation from rising seas, welcomed the proposal for establishing a fund – which did have strings attached, including that it would be paid into by a “broad donor base” of countries including China.

“As the lowest-lying country in the world, we are heartened by the goodwill in this room,” Shauna Aminath said. “We’re very close to an agreement, and let’s engage with one another and make this happen.”

The loss and damage issue has dominated this year’s summit, and talks had stuttered until Thursday as the United States and EU resisted a new fund over fears that it could open the door to spiralling liabilities to pay.

EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans stipulated that the bloc would only back the fund if countries agreed to other measures to slow climate change – specifically, phasing down all fossil fuels along with unabated coal-fuelled power generation, while submitting progress reports to make sure this gets done.

Delegates were eagerly awaiting news of how the United States and China – the world’s two biggest economies and two biggest polluters – would respond to the offer by the EU, the third biggest economy and greenhouse gas emitter.

Neither China nor the United States have so far formally responded to the EU’s proposal. Deals at COP27 must be made with support from all of the nearly 200 countries present.

On Friday morning, the U.N. climate agency published a first official draft of the final summit deal. The aim is for a global agreement that progresses towards fighting climate change on a range of fronts – from more funding, to guarantees that countries will act faster to slash planet-heating emissions.

The draft text left a placeholder for ‘loss and damage’ – to be filled in if countries can thrash out a deal on that issue.

Other elements of the document repeated commitments from last year’s climate summit, for example reiterating the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goals of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2C, while aiming for 1.5C – the limit that would avoid its worst impacts, and on which small island states say their future depends.

Some countries, including the EU and Britain, have pushed for the overall deal in Egypt to lock in country commitments for more ambitious climate action.

Ireland’s environment minister, Eamon Ryan, said countries needed to ratchet up their emissions-cutting efforts to avoid spending more later on recovery from disasters turbo-charged by climate change.

“It’s important that we get a strong cover text,” he told Reuters. “The responsibility very much will lie now with the Egyptian presidency in trying to get something that we can rally behind.”

COP27 host Egypt, meanwhile, said too much pressure was being put on the final, political deal, with a senior official saying the document needed to “be a reflection of the negotiations” that have taken place since the summit began on Nov. 6.

The draft text also repeated a pledge from last year’s summit to phase down the use of coal-fuelled power – but did not include the call backed by India, the EU and Britain to expand this to cover all fossil fuels.

Some delegates expressed irritation over an alleged lack of focus in the proceedings as well as an inconsistent supply of refreshments and wi-fi connectivity.

“There is a lack of collective focus in this COP, and that is why we don’t know how to channel all the energy we are feeling here inside into a political force that can move us in the right direction,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, head of climate at the non-profit World Wildlife Fund and the president of the COP20 climate summit in Lima, Peru, in 2014.

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