Change Edition

COP27 talks on verge of collapse after EU threatens to walk out

COP27 talks on verge of collapse after EU threatens to walk out

3 min. 19.11.2022
The EU's climate chief is prepared to walk if progress is not made on keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius target limit
EU Executive Prime Minister Frans Timmermans delivers a speech at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre
EU Executive Prime Minister Frans Timmermans delivers a speech at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre
Photo credit: AFP

COP27 climate talks in Egypt were in disarray Saturday after the European Union’s climate chief Frans Timmermans said the bloc is “prepared to walk away” if progress is not made on keeping alive the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Timmermans criticized the ambition shown by the Egyptian presidency of the talks in the seaside town of Sharm El-Sheikh, saying it failed to move the world closer to a key climate goal that will stop more extreme weather events from battering vulnerable countries. While a positive outcome was still within reach, Timmermans said there were concerns over the most controversial issue of these talks: the setting up of a dedicated loss and damage facility.

“We are worried,” Timmermans said in a press conference alongside EU environment ministers. “The EU would rather have no decision than a bad decision.”

Timmermans’ ultimatum throws talks into jeopardy, just days after the bloc tried to break the stalemate with a proposal to establish a finance facility to pay for the loss and damage caused by events like flooding and hurricanes. In exchange, the EU wants countries to vow to peak global emissions before 2025 and phase down all fossil fuels. Talks are already in overtime, having been scheduled to finish Friday.

The threat to walk away comes after late night talks in which the Egyptian presidency presented delegations draft text of individual agenda items on loss and damage and efforts to boost mitigation. The bloc was permitted by the presidency to analyze the text for 20 minutes at 1:30 a.m. in a private room, a senior official said. The process was highly unusual, the official added, building on top of heavy criticism directed toward the handling of the summit.

COP27 Gets Chaotic With Mysterious Draft Text, Elusive President

On loss and damage, the text presented did not include the EU’s call for the fund to apply only to the most climate-vulnerable nations, according to the official, who said the document instead referred to a broader category of “developing countries,” which would theoretically include the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. On mitigation, the draft wouldn’t require countries to lay out new climate goals or update their national plans to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius target laid out by the Paris Agreement, the official said, asking not to be named due to the discussions being private.

The EU proposal announced by Timmermans responds to the demands of developing nations that are suffering the most from extreme weather events fueled by global warming that they didn’t cause. The bloc also wants the donor base for a loss and damage facility expanded to include recent high emitters, like China. Where the US stands on the issue is still vague, and John Kerry, the country’s climate envoy is in isolation after a positive Covid-19 test.

A number of countries including India, the US, the EU and small island states have also called for a phase down of all fossil fuels. They see it as an improvement from what countries agreed on in COP26 in Glasgow last year -- to phase down unabated coal power. So far the language has not appeared in any of the draft texts put forward by Egypt.

“The EU is united in our ambition to move forward and build on what we agreed in Glasgow,” Timmermans said. “Our message to partners is clear: we cannot accept that 1.5C dies here and today.”

The COP27 presidency worked through the night to gather perspectives from different countries and come up with a text that balanced all views, the meeting’s president and Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry told the press on Saturday. 

“A vast majority of the parties indicated to me that they considered the text as balanced and that it constituted a breakthrough that could lead to consensus,” Shoukry said. “Every party has a full right to join consensus or not join consensus.”

Shoukry’s defense came amid a wave of fingerpointing by delegates and observers at the conference, who were already bracing for a potential collapse in talks that could destroy faith in the multilateral climate negotiation process.

“I fear today is the opening salvo in the blame game to say this conference is falling apart and we are failing not only to keep 1.5 alive but failing to keep the multilateral process going to be able to keep making better decisions going forward,” said Simon Lewis, a professor of global change science at University College London.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.