For the first time, the nations of the world decided to help pay for the damage an overheating world is inflicting on poor countries, but they ended marathon climate talks without further addressing the root cause of those disasters: the burning of fossil fuels.
Delegates approved the offset fund early Sunday morning but failed to address the contentious issues of an overall temperature target, emissions cuts and a desire to target all fossil fuels for phase-out.
In the early morning in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, European Union states and other nations fought what they saw as a rollback in the Egyptian presidency’s blanket coverage deal and threatened to wreck the deal. rest of the process.
The package was revised again, removing most of the elements that the Europeans had objected to, but adding none of the heightened ambition they had hoped for.
“What we have in front of us is not a sufficient step forward for people and the planet,” a disappointed EU executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told fellow negotiators. “It doesn’t bring enough additional efforts from major emitters to scale up and accelerate their emissions cuts.
“We have all fallen short on actions to prevent and minimize loss and damage,” Timmermans said. “We should have done a lot more.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also expressed her frustration.
“It is beyond frustrating to see several large emitters and oil producers obstruct the backlog of mitigation steps and the phasing out of fossil fuels,” he said.
France said it regretted the “lack of ambition” in the deal.
“No progress” has been made on further efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and switch away from fossil fuels, Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said in a statement, regretting a “real disappointment” but welcoming to 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 this is a problem that this COP did not address.”
Phasing out of fossil fuels?
Sunday’s agreement includes a veiled reference to the benefits of natural gas as low-emissions energy, despite many nations calling for a phase-out of natural gas, which does contribute to climate change.
While the new deal doesn’t increase calls to cut emissions, it does maintain language to keep alive the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The Egyptian presidency continued to offer proposals dating back to the 2015 Paris language, which also mentioned a more flexible target of 2C (3.6F).
The world has already warmed 1.1C (2F) since pre-industrial times.
The agreement does not expand on last year’s call to phase out global use of “steady coal”, despite India and other countries pushing to include oil and natural gas in the Glasgow language. That too was the subject of last-minute debate, which particularly upset the Europeans.
The chairman of last year’s climate talks chided summit leaders for shooting down his efforts to do more to cut emissions with a blunt list of what wasn’t done.
“We joined many parties in proposing a series of measures that would have contributed to this peak in emissions before 2025, as science tells us is necessary. Not in this text,” said Alok Sharma of the UK, emphasizing the last part.
“Clear tracking of coal phase-down. Not in this text. A clear commitment to the progressive elimination of all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energetic text weakened in the final minutes”.
And in his remarks to negotiators, UN climate chief Simon Stiell, a native of Grenada, called on the world “to move away from fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas.”
‘This is huge’
However, that fight was overshadowed by the historic compensation fund.
“Quite a few positives to celebrate amid the gloom and doom” of not cutting emissions fast enough, said climate scientist Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, which responds to climate disasters. .
It’s a reflection of what can be done when the poorest nations stick together, said Alex Scott, an expert on climate diplomacy at think tank E3G.
“I think it’s huge that governments come together to figure out at least the first step of… how to deal with the problem of loss and damage,” Scott said.
But like all climate finance, it’s one thing to create a fund and another to get money in and out, he said. The developed world has yet to meet its 2009 commitment to spend $100 billion a year on other climate aid designed to help poor nations develop green energy and adapt to future warming.
Talks next year will also see more negotiations to work out the details of the new loss and damage fund, as well as review the world’s efforts to meet Paris agreement targets, which scientists say are slipping out of reach.
Under the agreement, the fund would initially be based on contributions from developed countries and other public and private sources, such as international financial institutions.
While major emerging economies like China would not have to contribute automatically, that option remains on the table. This is a key demand from the EU and the US, who argue that China and other big polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their way.
The fund would largely target the most vulnerable nations, although there would be room for middle-income countries that are severely hit by climate disasters to get help.
Martin Kaiser, director of Greenpeace Germany, described the loss and damage agreement as a “small plaster on a huge open wound.”