Countries closed this year’s UN climate summit yesterday with a hard-fought deal to create a fund to help poor countries being battered by climate disasters, even as many lamented its lack of ambition in tackling the emissions causing them.
The deal was widely lauded as a triumph for responding to the devastating impact that global warming is already having on vulnerable countries. But many countries said they felt pressured to give up on tougher commitments for limiting global warming to 1.5C in order for the landmark deal on the loss and damage fund to go through.
Delegates – worn out after intense, overnight negotiations – made no objections as Egypt’s COP27 President Sameh Shoukry rattled through the final agenda items and gavelled the deal through.
Despite having no agreement for a stronger commitment to the 1.5C goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, “we went with what the agreement was here because we want to stand with the most vulnerable,” Germany’s climate secretary Jennifer Morgan, visibly shaken, said.
When asked whether the goal of stronger climate-fighting ambition had been compromised for the deal, Mexico’s chief climate negotiator Camila Zepeda summed up the mood among exhausted negotiators.
“Probably. You take a win when you can.”
The deal for a loss and damage fund marked a diplomatic coup for small islands and other vulnerable nations in winning over the 27-nation EU and the US, which had long resisted the idea for fear that such a fund could open them to legal liability for historic emissions.
Those concerns were assuaged with language in the agreement calling for the funds to come from a variety of existing sources, including financial institutions, rather than relying on rich nations to pay in.
The climate envoy from the Marshall Islands said she was ‘worn out’ but happy with the fund’s approval. “So many people all this week told us we wouldn’t get it,” Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner said. “So glad they were wrong.”
But it likely will be several years before the fund exists, with the agreement setting out only a roadmap for resolving lingering questions including who would oversee the fund, how the money would be dispersed – and to whom.
US special climate envoy John Kerry, who was not at the weekend negotiations in person after testing positive for Covid-19, yesterday welcomed the deal to ‘establish arrangements to respond to the devastating impact of climate change on vulnerable communities around the world’.
In a statement, he said he would continue to press major emitters like China to ‘significantly enhance their ambition’ in keeping the 1.5C goal alive.
The price paid for a deal on the loss and damage fund was most evident in the language around emission reductions and reducing the use of polluting fossil fuels – known in the parlance of UN climate negotiations as ‘mitigation’.
Last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, had focused on a theme of keeping the 1.5C goal alive – as scientists warn that warming beyond that threshold would see climate change spiral to extremes.
Countries were asked then to update their national climate targets before this year’s Egypt summit. Only a fraction of the nearly 200 parties did so.