Tensions simmer in COP27 talks as disagreements continue over loss and damage

Ashraf Amin in Sharm El-Sheikh , Thursday 17 Nov 2022

Many countries participating in the COP27 climate conference have expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of clear and executive steps after examining a draft decision proposed by the COP27 presidency that was circulated at five o'clock this morning.

A protest demanding pay for loss and damage at the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 20
A protest demanding pay for loss and damage at the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (AP

The Egyptian presidency of the COP27 postponed its daily presser at the conference amid an atmosphere of tensions and anger.

The tensions arose because the COP27 presidency 20-page cover text -- a political agreement that is reached through a consensus after discussions in closed rooms at the end of a UN climate conference per tradition - failed to mention any steps or executive procedures on loss and damage financing and other climate action issues.

Indeed, the phrase (left space for outputs and results) appeared 14 times in the text of the draft, including during mention of five climate financing related issues.

This open-endedness of the wording of the draft reflects both the complexity of the negotiations as well as the difficulty of reaching a consensus before the end of the COP27 on Friday officially.

Consequently, it is almost certain that negotiation sessions will extend for a day or two past Friday until a final statement is reached in a consensual manner.

Sherry Rahmani, pakistan's climate minister, who also chairs the G 77 + China - the largest inter-governmental organisation of developing states in the United Nations, expressed the group's consensus on the need to reach an agreement on executive mechanisms for financing loss and damage out of the conference, independent of agreements on other climate finance files.

“At the very least, [we need] a political announcement of intent,'' the Pakistani climate minister  told journalists on Thursday.

Rahmani said that the addition of the file of loss and damage as an item on the negotiating agenda for the very first time in a COP was a good accomplishment, stressing, however, that a clear text on the issue is needed. 

"If this continues to be kicked down the road, we will see it as a climate justice denied," he cautioned.

The G77 + China had submitted a 12-article proposal to the COP27 with specific recommendations on matters related to funding arrangements for loss and damage.

These recommendations included an urgent call for creating “a fund for assisting developing countries in meeting their costs of addressing non-economic and economic loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change."

The governing board for this proposed fund would comprise representatives of both developing and developed countries, according to the G77 + China vision.

The G77 + China proposal also calls for the establishment of a transitional committee to develop the objectives, principles, and operational modalities for the fund to be agreed on at the next UN talks in Dubai in 2023.

However, in a press conference, the Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans cautioned against any failure in the COP27 because of lack of consensus over financing loss and damage.

Timmermans argued that there might not be enough time at the COP27 to reach consensus between all parties on this issue.

Nonetheless, he stressed, there remains a need for a text that could be negotiated within the remaining time at the conference.

He highlighted that the European Union tried to build bridges of confidence on this issue through grant initiatives as well as Germany's Global Shield initiative to finance loss and damage which was presented in the G7 meeting last October and launched during the conference.

The initiative, backed by the G7 and launched with initial funding of more than $200 million, aims to provide pre-arranged financial support designed to be quickly deployed in times of climate disasters.

Timmermans added that Europe is ready to participate in the formation of a financing mechanism for loss and damage, provided that “there be fair participation from all countries” as well as the private sector, especially in areas related to climate issues such as aviation, oil and navigation.

He took issue, however, with the G77+China proposal, saying it limits the donor base for a fund to a list of two-dozen rich nations that was drawn up back in 1992.

He said that some countries, notably China, would be left "off the hook" in contributing to the fund even though they have grown wealthier since 1992.

"I am still hopeful that we can reach an agreement on this. But then I do ask of our partners to make sure that it's fair so that everybody who is in a position to contribute contributes," Timmermans said.

Timmermans added that the EU was open to the creation of a funding facility but that it should be among a "mosaic" of options that include existing financial instruments.

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