For the first time, the nations of the world have decided to help pay for the damage that an overheating world is inflicting on poor countries, but they have ended marathon climate talks without further addressing the root cause of these disasters – the burning of fossil fuels.
Early on Sunday, delegates approved the offset fund but failed to address contentious issues of a global temperature goal, emissions reductions and the desire to target all fossil fuels for a phased reduction.
In the early morning hours in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, European Union states and other nations hit back at what they saw as a rollback in the Egyptian presidency’s blanket blanket deal. and threatened to scuttle the rest of the process.
The package was again revised, removing most of the elements the Europeans had opposed, but adding none of the increased ambition they had hoped for.
“What we have in front of us is not enough of a step forward for people and the planet,” a disappointed EU executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told fellow negotiators. “This does not bring enough additional efforts on the part of large emitters to increase and accelerate their emissions reductions.
“We all failed in actions to avoid and minimize loss and damage,” Timmermans said. “We should have done a lot more.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also expressed frustration.
“It is beyond frustrating to see lagging steps on mitigation and fossil fuel phase-out blocked by a number of major emitters and oil producers,” she said.
France said it regretted the “lack of ambition” of the agreement.
“No progress” has been made to make additional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and abandon fossil fuels, Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said in a statement, regretting a “real disappointment” but hailing the “loss and damage” fund for nations vulnerable to climate change.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “Our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now – and that’s an issue this COP hasn’t addressed.
Gradual abandonment of fossil fuels?
Sunday’s agreement includes a veiled reference to the benefits of natural gas as a low-emission energy, despite many countries calling for a phase-out of natural gas, which contributes to climate change.
While the new deal doesn’t step up calls to cut emissions, it does retain language to keep alive the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The Egyptian presidency continued to put forward proposals reminiscent of the Paris language of 2015, which also mentioned a softer target of 2C (3.6F).
The world has already warmed by 1.1 C (2 F) since pre-industrial times.
The deal does not extend to last year’s call to phase out global use of ‘relentless coal’, even as India and others have pushed to include oil and gas natural in the language of Glasgow. This too was the subject of a last-minute debate, which particularly upset the Europeans.
The chairman of last year’s climate talks chastised summit leaders for reversing efforts to do more to cut emissions with a forceful list of what hasn’t been done.
“We have partnered with many parties to propose a number of measures that would have contributed to this peak in emissions before 2025, as science tells us is needed. Not in this text,” said Alok Sharma from the UK emphasizing the last part.
“Clear monitoring of the coal phase-out. Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energetic text weakened in the last minutes.
And in his remarks to negotiators, UN climate chief Simon Stiell, from Grenada, called on the world “to move away from fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas”.
‘It is enormous’
However, this fight was overshadowed by the historic compensation fund.
“Many positives to celebrate amid the gloom and misfortune” of not reducing emissions fast enough, said climate scientist Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, which responds to disasters climatic.
It’s a reflection of what can be done when poorer nations stay together, said Alex Scott, climate diplomacy expert at think tank E3G.
“I think it’s huge that governments are coming together to work on at least the first step of…how to deal with loss and damage,” Scott said.
But like all climate finance, it’s one thing to set up a fund, it’s another to get money in and out, she said. The developed world has still not delivered on its 2009 pledge to spend $100 billion a year on other climate aid – designed to help poor countries develop green energy and adapt to future warming.
Next year’s talks will also see further negotiations to hammer out the details of the new fund for loss and damage, as well as to review global efforts to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, which scientists say are out of reach.
According to the agreement, the fund would initially draw contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions.
While large emerging economies such as China would not automatically have to contribute, this option remains on the table. This is a key demand from the EU and US, which argue that China and other major polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their share.
The fund would largely go to the most vulnerable nations, although there is room for middle-income countries badly hit by climate disasters to get help.
Martin Kaiser, the director of Greenpeace Germany, described the loss and damage agreement as “a small bandage on a huge gaping wound”.
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