Can Cop27 still succeed? These top negotiators say there's still time

Delegates working flat out to agree on draft deal but time is running out

Co27 is continuing at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. EPA
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Only four days remain at Cop27. It is endgame.

Countries are racing to agree to clinch a deal on curbing emissions and stepping up finance to deal with the devastating effects of climate change.

But in the opaque world of technical committees, panel discussions and wrangling over words, what is happening behind closed doors at the crucial climate talks and what are the chances of success?

Talks need speedy progress

Cop27 president Sameh Shoukry has already had to tell parties to “shift gears” and accelerate the pace.

Technical discussions about a final draft text have now been extended to late on Tuesday, before ministers take over on Wednesday to try to thrash out a final agreement by Friday, the event’s scheduled last day.

These discussions typically end by Saturday so it does not leave much time.

“There has been good amount of work done,” Jan Dusik told The National. He is head of the delegation of the Czech presidency of the European Union, and speaks on behalf of the bloc.

“But there is also a lot of unfinished business. So it is important for experts to be given more time as ministers would not be able to clean up so much text.”

Negotiators are now effectively working through the night to boost the likelihood of a successful conclusion.

Main talking points

Loss and damage — compensation for developing countries that suffer climate change harm — has become vital. Getting it on to the agenda on the first day was a win but establishing such a fund is a different matter.

“Loss and damage for us is critical,” said Nabil Mounir, Pakistan’s chief negotiator, who also chairs the important Group of 77 developing countries.

“We want a concrete decision from Cop. We are pushing for the establishment of a fund. We remain hopeful we will be able to do that.”

Gideon Behar, the Israeli climate envoy, said he understood the position of developing countries on loss and damage. “Our wish is to see a balanced Cop and give consideration to loss and damage.”

The EU said it was important to recognise the importance of this new item on the agenda.

“Talks are now moving to the political level so we will see how far we can go in terms of agreeing,” said Mr Dusik.

“There is an understanding that not everything will be agreed during this meeting. So it is also about setting the road map.”

EU Climate Policy chief Frans Timmermans also told reporters on Tuesday that he wasn't certain countries would find consensus on the loss and damage mechanism.

Set as part of the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015, the 1.5°C goal — an attempt to limit global warming to this threshold on pre-industrial levels — is also in the spotlight.

Commentators have speculated that some countries were trying to water this down but Mr Dusik said the objective remained.

“I just came out of round-table on mitigation to 2030 and everyone was saying we cannot afford abandoning the 1.5°C ambition," he said. "That gives me hope.”

Kevin Conrad, executive director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, said he was concerned there was too much noise and “parallel silos” at Cop27 that distracted attention from Paris and the 1.5°C goal. He urged a refocusing on Paris by getting countries to execute it and reward them when they do.

“If you executive Paris, there is a pot of gold for you,” he said.

How are the talks going?

About 200 countries are jockeying for position. They will try to advance national interests, as well as seek consensus on saving the planet. But trying to read the tea leaves of what is happening in the darkened, air-conditioned conference rooms at the Sharm El Sheikh venue remains elusive.

Mr Mounir said “talks are always difficult” at this stage but was “pretty hopeful” of a deal. He said the atmosphere in the negotiating rooms away from the glare of the media was positive. “They know the whole world is watching,” he said. “They want this to be successful.”

The role of the Egyptian presidency comes into play during the second week where they instruct where more work needs to be done. Mr Dusik said there was a still “a great many things still open” and much work to be done before the ministers looked at crunch issues. “We need the Egypt presidency to distil this,” he said.

Mr Behar said it was “really hard to say” how the talks were progressing. But Israel was keen to focus on solutions. “The issue of solutions has been neglected at Cops, generally speaking,” he said.

What will happen on Friday?

A declaration, or what is known as a cover decision, is expected. This will set out what has been achieved at Cop27 and the path ahead. Cops tend to overrun but is there enough time to clinch a deal?

Mr Conrad said he did not expect major exciting decisions but wanted mention of saving the rainforests in the final declaration. “Showing momentum is always really important,” he said.

Mr Mounir said he expected something “concrete” on Friday. “I think there is a sense of that.” Mr Dusik cautioned that there was a lot more work to do but despite that, he said: “Yes, I am optimistic.”

Updated: November 17, 2022, 12:38 PM
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