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Sticking points slow crunch talks to agree final deal at Cop27

Cop27 sign in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Cop27 sign in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Delegates have started work on a final agreement, but the G20 summit taking place in Bali could play a role
  • Negotiations on the climate summit’s final agreement began on Tuesday
  • Developing nations want extra funding, but EU and US are wary
  • Some delegates think the summit might run over time

Government ministers and negotiators from nearly 200 countries began working towards a Cop27 final deal on Tuesday, with the summit host Egypt issuing assurances that the slow-moving talks remain on track.

On the conference floor in Sharm El Sheikh, however, some delegates have begun to speculate that the UN talks could run over time into the weekend, with governments still snagged on key issues including funding for developing countries to combat and adapt to climate change.

Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad acknowledged that big sticking points remain unresolved, particularly around finance. But “most of the progress would come when the ministers are involved” this week, she told Reuters.

On Monday evening, the Egyptian Cop27 presidency issued an outline of what could become the final political agreement from the two-week summit.  

The document is a list of bullet points outlining the issues that countries want to see in the deal – including the contentious funding proposals.

The two-page list mentions the urgent need for action to keep within reach the globally agreed goal to prevent the world heating beyond 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“We cannot lose 1.5C at this Cop,” said Alok Sharma, president of last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow, at a side event in Egypt on Tuesday.

However, there is little mention in the paper of burning fossil fuels – the main cause of global warming – so the Cop27 deal may focus instead on new commitments to give cash to poorer nations.

Delegates also have one eye on Bali, where world leaders are meeting for the G20 summit on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ahead of the talks, China’s President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden – the leaders of the world’s two most polluting nations – agreed to resume co-operation on climate change.

Shauna Aminath, climate minister for the Maldives, said a strong signal from the G20 could be a positive spur for Cop27.

“I hope leaders in G20 are able to have a constructive dialogue despite the geopolitical differences and understand that climate change could actually be something that unites us,” she said.

Speaking at the sidelines of the summit in Egypt, EU environment policy chief Virginijus Sinkevicius told Reuters: “It’s all boiling down to the last days.

“It seems like still we are quite far from what we would love to have as an outcome, but I’m sure as more and more energy is put in, it will boil down to the last days and maybe last minutes,” he said.

Brazil’s top diplomat at Cop27 said that, in addition to the two-page document released on Monday, there were several other proposed texts circulating between delegations but these were not ready to be made public.

“It’s natural, as time runs out, to reach more concrete and more ambitious decisions,” Paulino de Carvalho Neto told Reuters.

He also suggested the talks could extend beyond the summit’s scheduled close on Friday into the weekend. “It is possible that this will happen. But it’s early for us to say that,” he said.

Belize negotiator Carlos Fuller said countries would be discussing the two-page outline on Tuesday evening and could add more items to the “laundry list” of issues.

A section in the document on loss and damage – referring to funds for developing countries that are facing unavoidable damage caused by climate change – suggested the deal would address the “need for funding arrangements” to tackle this.

It did not, however, give any hint of whether the final deal will include a new loss and damage fund. Developing countries are demanding this, but the European Union and United States are wary.

Rich nations’ failure to deliver in full on a pledge to pay $100 billion in “climate cash” to developing countries each year has caused friction. Last year, wealthy nations paid about $83 billion, but said they’d meet the full pledge only in 2023.

One of Egypt’s top climate envoys, UN high-level climate champion Mahmoud Mohieldin, was seen on Tuesday wearing a red button reading “#WTF” on his lapel – the familiar hashtag standing in this instance for “Where’s the finance?”

Fiame Naomi Mataafa, the prime minister of Samoa, warned that the world could not “afford a further erosion of trust between the developed and developing countries.” 

“Let us make Cop27 the turning point in our efforts to make the rhetoric history and the mirages real,” Mataafa added.

India’s delegates surprised some countries last week by pushing for a deal to phase down all fossil fuels – rather than just coal, as countries agreed at Cop26. The draft Cop27 text issued on Monday did not hint at which route the final deal will take.

The European Union supports the idea, the bloc’s climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said on Tuesday, but only if it does not weaken previous agreements on reducing the use of coal.

India is among the biggest coal users and its proposal would serve to widen the focus.

Big oil and gas producers were not keen. Saudi negotiator Khalid Abuleif said his country, Opec’s biggest producer, was worried the final talks would “demonise” the fossil fuel industry.

Tom Evans, a policy analyst at think tank E3G, said the G20 could be a better guide to the final Cop deal than the draft proposals in circulation.

“Many of the issues hinted at in this paper are under live discussion at the G20 leaders summit,” Evans said, adding that the Cop27 final deal could be swayed by what the Group of 20 leaders agree on issues such as phasing down fossil fuels.