Discussions have been going on at the climate conference for almost two weeks. It’s about the livelihoods of millions of people – and billions of dollars. But the final sprint is dragging on.
Nerves are on edge and every single word is haggled behind closed doors – the injury time on the World Climate Conference has begun.
Negotiators from around 200 countries are struggling to reach an agreement on financing climate damage in poorer countries. “It will be an intense day, and probably also an intense night,” said the Foreign Minister on Friday Annalena Bärbock ahead, who traveled to Sharm el Sheikh in the Egyptian desert as Germany’s chief negotiator.
Financial aid as a glimmer of hope?
For the first time in its history, will the international community commit to paying for damage caused by climate-related droughts, storms, floods or rising sea levels in poorer countries? Such a breakthrough is considered by experts to be a glimmer of hope at the meeting, where there are otherwise many nooks and crannies.
“The big question at the end of this conference is whether the many people in vulnerable countries will ultimately get a clear decision that a fund will be established that can compensate for damage and losses very quickly and promptly,” said German Greenpeace boss Martin Emperor of the German Press Agency. “It has to be delivered correctly here,” emphasized the German climate activist Luisa Neubauer in the dpa conversation.
Where is China?
A sticking point in the discussion: Are countries that emit a particularly large amount of greenhouse gases willing to commit to this fund and also pay in the long term? Among other things, the role of China is controversial. The country wants to continue to be treated as a developing country in international climate protection, as was stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol 30 years ago. Western countries, however, no longer want to classify China as a recipient of funds because of its economic power and its role as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Since late Thursday evening, a push by the EU, which sees itself as a mediator willing to compromise, has been on the table. After a long period of reluctance, the confederation of states is now ready, under certain conditions, to give the green light for a money pot for climate damage.
EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that while a fund is not the EU’s preferred option, it is taking a step towards developing countries’ demands. Breaking down blockades is, so to speak, the job description of the European Union, praises people in European negotiating circles.
However, the EU is making its willingness subject to conditions: on the one hand, the funds would only have to go to the most vulnerable states, said Timmermans. And it must be ensured that the compensation payments are accompanied by more ambition in curbing global warming.
Baerbock: No result is better than setbacks
Foreign Minister Baerbock also made it clear that going backwards in climate protection would be unacceptable for the EU. “Worse than no result would be a result that weakens, waters down or even reverses the consensus in Glasgow and Paris,” said the Green politician, referring to previous climate conferences.
A draft of the summit’s final declaration published on Friday morning calls for a gradual phase-out of coal. However, the demand of a number of states to include the farewell to oil and gas in the agreement is not taken up. The conference “can’t get it right” to make it clear in a final document that all fossil fuels must be put an end to, criticized Neubauer. “That says a lot about the climate conference.”
Jan Kowalzig from Oxfam Germany also considers the paper to be “not a big hit” and sees no signal effect for appropriate climate protection. “That’s partly what we already had – or even toned down. That’s insufficient.”
China and the US are talking to each other
Whether anything else happens in the extension of the conference also depends on the dispute over climate damage financing. Negotiators report that some states want to obtain concessions on other issues in return for concessions on one issue. A lot also depends on the biggest greenhouse gas emitters – China and second place the USA – which are now at least talking to each other again.
US climate commissioner John Kerry spoke with China’s climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua for almost three hours on Thursday evening, said observers from the climate think tank E3G, who followed the deliberations closely. China broke off the climate dialogue with the US over tensions over Taiwan in August.
According to the climate portal “Carbon Brief”, none of these annual meetings has ended on time in the past 20 years. The Egyptian President of the conference, Samih Schukri, said on Friday afternoon that he wanted to bring the UN meeting to a close on Saturday. He issued the slogan: “We have to shift up a gear again.” However, the organizers have already said that food and buses at the conference will be secured until Sunday evening.