Climate conference on the home stretch – politics

Sameh Shoukry doesn’t see any major problem: “Everyone is equally dissatisfied,” said Egypt’s foreign minister on Saturday afternoon. “There is no one perfect solution.” Shoukry is the president of the climate conference in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh – and at this point there is nothing to suggest that he will be able to tie the knots.

Three questions in particular preoccupy the summit in the last few hours:

  • Firstly, how the states will drive forward the reduction of greenhouse gases in the next few years – because they are light years away from the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Second, how those responsible for climate change pay for the damage that particularly vulnerable countries are already suffering today – and what responsibility the now largest emitter, China, is assuming.
  • And thirdly, how strongly the states commit themselves to climate protection in a final document – or whether they might fall behind the Glasgow agreements.

It is not unusual for a climate conference to go into injury time. It is unusual that she has so many open questions to solve in the remaining time, and such fundamental ones at that. “The world is watching,” says Shoukry at noon. “And time is not on our side.”

The latter, of course, could also be due to the way the Egyptians conducted their negotiations. Conceivably late, she presented concrete text proposals for the points of contention, the basis for every negotiation. And not even in such a way that the delegations could seriously deal with it. On Friday night, the negotiators were only allowed to read new texts on an iPad held under their noses – taking pictures was forbidden. It is a new highpoint in a generally chaotic climate conference. “Sometimes I wonder if the hosts want a result here at all,” says an experienced negotiator.

But in the afternoon the situation changed. Shoukry has new ones lyrics published, they contain something for everyone. A work program up to 2030 is included, as requested by the Europeans, it is intended to help achieve the 1.5 degree target. A formulation that would have spared states from taking a tougher approach to climate protection has also disappeared. In the morning, this passage had Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) on the barricades. “If others want to bury the 1.5 degree path here, we say clearly: We won’t go along with that.”

The new texts also set things in motion when it comes to dealing with the damage caused by climate change. A fund is to be set up to compensate for this damage. The EU was the last to stand up for this. However, two central demands of the Europeans are no longer found in it: the fund does not only benefit particularly vulnerable states, but in principle all developing countries. Nor would China inevitably become one of the donors for this fund. The People’s Republic is now an economic power and causes more carbon dioxide than any other country – but the climate convention still lists it as a developing country that does not have to give money for such funds. It was initially unclear whether the EU would agree to this.

If it did, the high noon between yesterday’s economic powerhouses and China would be averted – to the detriment of the EU. In the final hours of the conference, the Europeans tried feverishly to get island states and developing countries on their side. But the bloc of the G-77 group of developing countries held together. China is also a member and its influence, especially economic, is far-reaching.

Egypt’s role also remained unclear for a long time, and negotiators suspected that the country wanted to let the conference fail. “The Egyptian presidency held the paper tight to its chest,” agrees David Ryfisch, who follows the negotiations for Germanwatch. “And now we suddenly have lyrics that are much more mature.” It remains to be seen whether they are mature enough to reach an agreement. “It’s up to the states now,” Shoukry said at noon. “Each of them has the right not to participate in the consensus.” Without consensus, however, the conference fails.

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