COP27 Climate Summit: Success Hinges on ‘Loss and Damage’

The COP27 climate summit in Egypt entered its final week, with nearly 200 countries racing to reach an agreement to steer the world toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing funding for countries affected by climate change.

Source: Reuters | Published on November 14, 2022

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On Monday, the COP27 climate summit in Egypt entered its final week, with nearly 200 countries racing to reach an agreement to steer the world toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing funding for countries affected by climate change.

Some negotiators and observers warn that failure to agree on such “loss and damage” funding could derail the United Nations talks and stymie other agreements. After more than 130 developing countries successfully demanded that it be added to the agenda for the first time, the issue has risen to the top of political priorities at COP27.

Following a first week of talks that left much unresolved – and included speeches from dozens of world leaders but few announcements of new funding or pledges to cut emissions faster – negotiators now face a massive list of items on which to reach agreements by Friday.

“It’s all constructive, but I don’t think it’s responded with the transformational urgency that people expect,” said Tom Evans, a policy analyst for the non-profit think tank E3G, of the commitments made so far at COP27.

So far, announcements have included a few hundred million dollars in funding for poorer countries pledged by Germany, Austria, the United States, and others, far short of the hundreds of billions that vulnerable countries require each year to deal with escalating droughts, floods, and rising seas.


On Monday, government ministers will take over the negotiations in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to seek a deal that avoids any weakening of ambition to address climate change, even as governments battle multiple crises, ranging from rampant inflation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which some officials expect European delegates to bring up during this week’s talks.

At last year’s United Nations climate summit, all countries agreed to set tougher climate targets this year in order to keep average global temperature rises to the 1.5C limit that scientists say would avoid the worst effects of global warming.

Only about 30 have done so in the face of a global energy crisis and looming economic downturn.

Many delegates are also looking ahead to Bali, where US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping – the world’s two biggest polluters – met on Monday ahead of the Group of 20 summit. A resumption of US-China climate change collaboration, which China halted earlier this year, could help boost negotiations at COP27.

Some negotiators said the summit’s early breakthrough in agreeing to discuss funding to help vulnerable countries cope with damage from floods, drought, and other climate impacts – the politically contentious issue known as loss and damage – had slowed in recent days.

“Discussions on loss and damage have been weak, with little progress,” said Omar Alcock, a negotiator for Jamaica, one of more than 130 developing and climate-vulnerable countries demanding that countries agree to establish a new loss and damage fund at COP27.

The issue has the potential to sour the talks and slow progress on other potential deals.

The European Union, which has 27 member countries, has stated that it is now open to discussing such a fund, but, like the United States, rejects any outcome that could make rich nations legally liable to pay for climate-related damage due to their high historical greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is common knowledge that the United States and many other countries will not establish… any type of legal structure based on compensation or liability. That is simply not the case “On Saturday, US climate envoy John Kerry told the conference.

Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa and a COP27 observer, described the lack of progress as a “betrayal of vulnerable communities and countries.”


Rifts are forming in other negotiation rooms over the so-called cover texts that will form the summit’s core political agreement.
Last week, India surprised some countries by pushing for a deal to phase out all fossil fuels, rather than just coal, as countries agreed at last year’s United Nations summit.

This would put oil and gas consumers and producers in the spotlight, easing the focus on countries that rely heavily on coal for energy, such as India. According to observers, India’s proposal is likely to face opposition from major oil and gas producers such as Saudi Arabia.

“That will undoubtedly flare up,” one observer predicted.

Meanwhile, the EU wants all countries to agree to raise their emissions-cutting targets in 2023, which China is opposing. China is also opposing the EU’s efforts to establish regular international meetings for countries to exchange knowledge and track progress on emissions-cutting goals to ensure they are met.

“We ran out of time this week, but I am confident that an ambitious outcome will be forthcoming next week,” Belize negotiator Carlos Fuller said of the plan to hold these progress meetings.

Egypt’s most prominent prisoner, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, escalating his hunger strike at the start of the summit has also focused attention on the host country’s human rights record, threatening to overshadow any agreements reached during the two-week event.

Some countries are also looking for deals outside of the formal talks, not least because previous COP agreements have failed to translate into real-world action. On Monday, Germany and a group of climate-vulnerable countries launched the “Global Shield” scheme in an attempt to improve insurance for climate-vulnerable countries.

According to research released last week during COP27, global CO2 emissions are set to rise this year, exposing the chasm between countries’ promises to cut emissions in future years and their actions today, which, if continued, would heat the planet far beyond the 1.5C target.