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Climate activists Vanessa Nakate and Luisa Neubauer are demanding no more fossil fuels at COP27Image: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture-alliance

COP27 talks falter over emissions cuts ambitions

Stuart Braun
November 19, 2022

A draft text of the resolution hashed out during the UN climate summit in Egypt has been slammed for not insisting on a fossil fuel phaseout. Talks extended into Saturday as countries struggled to find agreement.


Countries are struggling to find agreement at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, with the EU rejecting a proposal overnight saying emissions reduction targets weren't ambitious enough and threatening to walk away. 

"We'd rather have no decision than a bad decision," EU Commission Vice president Frans Timmermans told journalists in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday morning, as major divisions between countries remained unbridged. 

Negotiators from the bloc fear that the proposals wouldn't meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) temperature limit reaffirmed in Glasgow, Scotland. 

"Our message to partners is clear: we cannot accept that 1.5 C dies here and today," tweeted Timmermans. 

"The text does keep the 1.5 alive," insisted Sameh Shoukry, COP27 President and Egypt's foreign minister at a press conference Saturday morning. 

Negotiators are scrambling to find compromise on a number of faultline issues, including on locking countries into more ambitious targets, as proposed by the EU, as well as including a "phase down of fossil fuels" rather than just coal.

Fossil fuel fight 

A failure to mention all fossil fuels in an earlier draft text had outraged delegates in Egypt who are demanding immediate action to keep global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

As the fraught negotations ran into Saturday, negotiators diluted clashed over language brokered at the 2021 Glasgow climate summit to "phase down" so-called "unabated coal power." It does not mention oil and gas.  

"If this COP doesn't extend the phaseout beyond coal, it's a failure," said Nikki Reisch, director of climate and energy at the US-based Center for Environmental Law (CIEL). The weaker language of a phase-down as opposed to phaseout also leaves "tanker sized loopholes" for further fossil fuel projects, she said at COP27.  

But by Friday morning, both the EU and the Independent Association of Latin America and Caribbean countries (AILAC) had called for the phaseout of all fossil fuels in the text, according to Climate Action Network International (CAN) which brings together 1,800 civil society groups from around the world. 

Tuvalu leads renewables push

A separate proposal by Pacific Island state, Tuvalu, for all nations to phase out all fossil fuel production and consumption and achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050 was agreed by all parties during the overnight negotiations, CAN reported — even if delegates from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, USA and EU members Hungary and Poland were not completely supportive.  

A further positive negotiation outcome is Brazil's commitment to a zero-deforestation law for the Amazon in 2023, with Congo and Indonesia also signalling intentions to pass similar legislation.

Meanwhile, CAN reported that the EU, UK, Australia, Canada and other fossil fuel exporters such as Norway, UAE and Kuwait have agreed to stop any new fossil fuel projects.  

Nonetheless, while the latest COP27 draft text also calls — as in Glasgow — for the phaseout of fossil fuel subsidies, campaigners questioned the wording of a push to transition to "low emission energy systems." 

This is an "opening door for continued promotion of fossil fuels instead of shift to renewable energy," tweeted Sebastien Duyck, an attorney at CIEL. 

Divisions remain as COP27 summit nears conclusion

Impasse over climate compensation 

The major roadblock to negotiations has been the issue of financial reparations for low income and climate vulnerable nations for climate change impacts — also known as loss and damage

Global South countries have contributed few global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but are suffering from worsening climate-induced extreme weather events — such as the recent floods in Pakistan.  

A loss and damage funding mechanism demanded by 134 developing countries known as the G77 was not agreed at Glasgow. But a new EU proposal would establish a special fund covering loss and damage in "particularly vulnerable" countries, EU climate chief Frans Timmermans announced last night. In exchange, countries claiming compensation for climate disasters must make tougher emissions cuts. 

The sticking point so far is the reticence of big polluters like the US, but also China, India and Saudi Arabia, to commit more finance to such a fund. China and India argue that they are still developing countries. 

Now Germany — which launched a Global Shield initiative under which insurance companies will pay out loss and damage claims — is demanding that China, the world's highest carbon emmiter, pays its fair share. 

"China has 28% of greenhouse gas emissions at the moment. So they must also contribute to dealing with the damage," German Development Minister Svenja Schulze told broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk on Friday.

Timmermans said he was "encouraged'' by reactions to the proposal, with more to be hashed out during the course of Friday. "This is about not having a failure here," said Timmermans, adding that negotiations were extremely precarious and could go either way. 

"We cannot afford to have a failure," he said. "Now, if our steps forward are not reciprocated, then obviously there will be a failure."

"The EU position has dramatically shifted and and it's gaining a lot of support from a lot of other developing countries," said Lola Vallejo, expert at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. This new momentum on a funding arrangement is likely "isolating the US," which has been unwilling to back a deal, she added.

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, spoke last night of a "breakdown in trust" between developed and developing countries.

"This is no time for finger pointing. The blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction," he said. "The world is watching and there is a simple message: Stand and deliver."

Tim Schauenberg contributed reporting

This report was updated on Saturday morning with the latest from COP27. 

Edited by: Tamsin Walker

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