Disappointing U.N. climate talks leave 'huge task' for COP27 Egypt summit

by Beh Lih Yi and Megan Rowling | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 17 June 2022 11:42 GMT

Seashells are seen in front of boats during low tide of water while Egyptian fishermen raise their nets without fish along a beach in the Red Sea shore at Port Said city, northeast of Cairo, Egypt May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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Developing countries were especially upset by a lack of concrete progress on setting up a fund to help them deal with rising losses and damage driven by climate change

  • Tensions flare between rich and poorer, vulnerable nations

  • No major advances on climate finance, emissions reductions

  • Pressure grows on Egypt as host of November's COP27 conference

By Beh Lih Yi and Megan Rowling

- A "disappointing" fortnight of U.N. talks in Bonn has left much work to be done just five months before a crucial climate summit, diplomats and analysts said, after negotiations failed to make concrete advances on efforts to tackle global warming.

At the closing session on Thursday, developing nations expressed disappointment over scant progress at the mid-year session on key issues, especially on setting up a finance facility to deal with rising losses from extreme weather and rising seas.

The lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said the 39-member grouping had not received assurances that climate finance "will be delivered at scale or speed".

"The climate emergency is fast becoming a catastrophe. Yet within these walls, the process feels out of step with reality," said Conrod Hunte, U.N. ambassador for the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

The weak outcome from Bonn - which also saw no major steps forward on emissions cuts or toward a global goal to drive adaptation - leaves diplomats with a "huge task" before November's COP27 summit in Egypt, said Alex Scott of think-tank E3G.

"It's looking like negotiators have come without the political wiggle room to ... make sure that we get to COP27 with a real sense of progress," E3G's climate diplomacy leader told journalists.

RIFTS

The talks in Bonn saw longstanding tensions flare between developing and developed countries over issues ranging from who should take more responsibility to reduce climate-changing emissions to how to pay to repair and avert "loss and damage".

From the start, countries tussled over whether and how to put on the official U.N. agenda a dialogue on setting up a dedicated fund for loss and damage.

The issue was left undecided in Bonn, prompting outgoing U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa to call for "major political decisions" at COP27 on finance for loss and damage.

This - together with increased funding for adaptation and clean energy - "is crucial to build a more sustainable and resilient future", she noted in a statement.

Harjeet Singh, a senior advisor with Climate Action Network International, said that for the first time many developed countries had in Bonn acknowledged the gap in providing finance to vulnerable countries to help them recover from climate change impacts they had little role in causing.

But rich nations - including the European Union, Switzerland and the United States - then went on to block discussion on a new finance facility and did not even allow developing countries to add it to the agenda for COP27, he noted.

"Instead of using empty words, rich countries must show (a) spirit of international cooperation and solidarity to engage constructively at COP27 to establish the Loss and Damage Finance Facility," Singh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

PARIS INTO PRACTICE

Espinosa said the focus was now on ensuring that the Egyptian COP, in the city of Sharm el-Sheikh, "could truly be the place where the important promises of the Paris Agreement are turned into reality".

Countries kick-started discussions in Bonn on how to slash emissions faster and deeper to meet the tightest Paris accord goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), and to assess their collective progress in doing so.

But there were divisions over how to push forward a programme aimed at ratcheting up emissions reductions globally - with at-risk nations asking for it to continue until 2030, while some countries, such as China, wanted it to last just a year.

Wealthy governments also sought to have the mitigation programme include major emerging economies but faced push-back from developing countries that have historically contributed less to carbon emissions.

David Waskow, director for international climate action at the U.S.-based World Resources Institute, called on major polluters to strengthen their emissions reduction targets and on rich countries to deliver the funding needed for vulnerable nations to deal with the effects of a heating planet.

"Perhaps the most decisive outcome from these (Bonn) talks is that developed countries now realise that the chorus calling for solutions to loss and damage is only getting louder," he said.

"Addressing this issue is a central measure of success for the U.N. climate summit in Egypt," he added in a statement.

'UNCONSCIONABLE'

Climate-vulnerable nations have long grappled with the slow pace of progress at U.N. negotiations, with their key demands - including more finance - going largely unmet.

A report by the Vulnerable Twenty Group (V20) on 55 economies hit hard by climate change - from Bangladesh to Kenya to South Sudan - this month found they had lost about $525 billion - or 20% of their wealth on average - in the last two decades due to the impacts of global warming.

Climate change-driven losses are already surging and are set to become much worse if measures to curb emissions from fossil fuel use worldwide are not dramatically stepped up, a flagship U.N. science report in February warned.

At the Bonn closing session, Switzerland said the talks had not seen sufficient progress on ambition to cut emissions to keep the 1.5C goal within reach, warning that this year "we may lose 1.5 degrees" - something "we simply can't afford".

Hunte of AOSIS called for high-emitting countries to submit stronger plans for emissions cuts by a U.N. deadline in late September, warning of a "code red" situation, with the world teetering on the edge of "overshoot into disaster".

"Science must be the basis of our decision here yet we leave with a disappointing conclusion. This is an unconscionable way to negotiate with vulnerable countries," he told delegates.

Read more:

Climate-battered nations hunt elusive cash to adapt at U.N. talks

Vulnerable nations demand funding for climate losses, fearing UN 'talk shop'

EXPLAINER: Are we making real progress towards 'net zero' emissions?

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi in Kuala Lumpur and Megan Rowling in Barcelona; Editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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