Egypt: COP27 on the verge of failure? EU wants to save 1.5 degree target

Frustrated ministers, petrified faces, flaming appeals: After two weeks, many points of contention are still unresolved at the UN climate conference. Does the meeting hit the wall?

The UN climate conference in Egypt has reached a dead end and threatens to fail. EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned on Saturday that, if necessary, they would accept the two-week meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh being canceled.

“We will not agree to any proposals that turn back the 1.5 degree target,” Baerbock clarified after unsuccessful nightly negotiations. And Timmermans said that the union of states would not cross certain red lines. “It’s better to have no result than a bad one.”

The world climate conference, to which around 34,000 participants traveled, went into overtime on Friday evening. COP President Samih Schukri said the morning after: “There is an equal level of dissatisfaction from all sides.” The representatives of the approximately 200 states now wanted to continue discussing a final declaration. He dodged the question of a possible failure. “Each party has the full right to join or not join a consensus.”

Deep concern erupted in negotiating circles during the night after delegations were only minutes to see draft texts on the state of play of the negotiations presented by the Egyptian Presidency. “This is extremely unusual,” said a negotiator about the final sprint. The delegations should not have taken the text with them, but only looked at it for 20 minutes and then commented briefly.

Baerbock: 1.5 degree target must be maintained

One concerned delegate reported that the text was “the opposite of what needs to happen,” especially when it comes to the passages dealing with curbing global warming. Baerbock referred to suggestions that were circulating that no state would have to increase its climate protection ambitions in the next ten years. “Then the 1.5 degree target would die here at this conference. And the European Union is not going along with that,” she emphasized.

In 2015, the international community agreed in Paris to limit warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. The world has now warmed up by a good 1.1 degrees, Germany even more. According to scientific warnings, exceeding the 1.5-degree mark significantly increases the risk of triggering so-called tipping elements in the climate system and thus uncontrollable chain reactions.

Baerbock said global warming and its consequences, such as more frequent droughts, storms and floods, are already bringing many of the most vulnerable countries to the brink of collapse – and they need help. One is not only in Egypt “to produce paper”. The conference must take a big step forward.

Timmermans also expressed great concern about the negotiations. You will struggle to reach an agreement until the end, but if necessary you are prepared to leave without an explanation. “The message to our partners is clear: we cannot accept that the 1.5 degree goal is dying here and now.”

Criticism of the Egyptian hosts grew in the face of delays and a negotiation process that participants described as chaotic. COP President Schukri acknowledged the displeasure of the participants on Saturday, but played the ball back and said that the responsibility for an agreement lies with the countries. His special representative for the COP27, Ambassador Wael Abulmagd, also rejected criticism of the sluggish and sometimes cumbersome negotiation process and downplayed concerns. “I think we don’t have to worry too much,” said Abulmagd.

Another important point of contention is whether an extra financial pot for climate damage should be set up in particularly vulnerable countries and who should pay into this fund. The EU is open to an agreement here, but only under the condition that the funds only benefit poorer, very threatened countries. In addition, everything should be tied to more ambitious climate protection measures. According to experts, a breakthrough on the question of “loss and damage” in UN jargon would be a glimmer of hope at the end of the meeting.

Role of China disputed

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 stipulated in the 1992 Kyoto Protocol. 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.

The executive director of Greenpeace Germany, Martin Kaiser, said about the hiccup: “On the last day of the COP, the climate crisis and geopolitics collide with full force. Instead of a short and long-term solution for taking over the damages and losses in the interests of those most affected Finding people through all the rich super emitters and moving the world further on a 1.5 degree path, hopeful outcomes will be crushed between blocs of states at the UN.”

Criticism of host Egypt

Kaiser said of the role of the Egyptian conference leadership: “It is unacceptable and unprecedented that a COP presidency operates in a completely non-transparent manner and that civil society and states clear tables and chairs before the conference is over.”

In a first draft of the final declaration published by the conference management on Friday morning, a gradual phase-out of coal is called for. However, the demand by a number of states to also include the farewell to oil and gas was not taken up – which caused criticism from climate protectionists and also did not please many states.


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