After the EU dramatically threatened to walk away from the packed COP27 summit the day before, UN climate talks settled on Saturday to crunch negotiations on global warming targets.
National negotiators said progress was being made on the previously deadlocked issue of funding “losses and damages” from rich countries for poorer nations facing the effects of climate change.
But Jennifer Morgan, the German climate minister, said the deal would be approved unless it included measures that would “keep 1.5 alive” – the mantra of last year’s COP26 talks in Glasgow.
This refers to the goal in the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 2C from pre-industrial levels and ideally below 1.5C by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A group of countries known as the “High Ambition Coalition”, which includes the UK, Germany and Spain, said on Saturday evening that both temperature targets and damage and loss funding must be reflected in the final COP27 agreement.
“One without the other doesn’t make sense, otherwise we would be accepting the disaster and not moving forward to avoid the worst of the climate,” said Chile’s Environment Minister Maisa Rojas.
The summit was supposed to end on Friday but was extended over the weekend as negotiators disagreed on key issues.
“We don’t want 1.5C to die here today,” EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said on Saturday, as he issued the ultimatum.
“Everything is on the table, these are high stakes, capital is being called,” said one European diplomat.
Questions persisted on Saturday over how countries would scale up their emissions cuts, raising concerns among some negotiators that the 1.5C target could be in jeopardy.
“We would rather not make any decision than make a bad decision,” Timmermans told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh.
“All ministers . . . are ready to walk away, like me, if we don’t get the justice that the world is waiting for, which is if we do something about this climate crisis,” he said.
According to people familiar with the discussions, countries opposed to increased action to cut emissions included China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
Climate COPs are always lopsided and rarely end on time, but it is unusual for a large bloc of Western countries like the EU to threaten to pull out at the last minute.
Nobody should underestimate the threat of leaving the EU, said Romina Pormokhtari, Sweden’s climate and environment minister. “There is no one here who is willing to go back to our country to explain to them why we took a step back.”
The group has stressed the importance of building on last year’s Glasgow climate accord, which includes a commitment to reduce the use of the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal.
COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, said on Saturday that the draft text of the final agreement would keep the 1.5C goal alive and take a “holistic approach to addressing the challenges of climate change”.
Shoukry said there was “equal dissatisfaction in all quarters” but insisted that “the majority of parties” would find a basis for an agreement.
“There is never a perfect solution but I have tried to provide a basis from which we can move forward,” Shoukry said. “It takes some effort to reach the point of convergence.”
There were also concerns about how Egypt’s presidency was handling the summit. “I’ve never experienced anything like it: transparent, unpredictable and chaotic,” said one representative.
The countries’ negotiating teams were given some time in the early hours of the morning to review updated texts for several key outstanding issues; It was “not a normal process,” said an EU official.
Additional reporting by Pilita Clark and Emilia Mychasuk in Sharm el-Sheikh
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