UN climate talks reach halftime with key issues unresolved


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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — We are halfway through the UN climate talks in Egypt, with negotiators still working on draft agreements before ministers arrive next week to make push for a substantial deal to tackle climate change.

The two-week meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh began with strong calls from world leaders to redouble efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help poor countries cope with global warming.

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Scientists say the amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere must be halved by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The 2015 pact set a goal of ideally limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, but left it to countries to decide how. they want to do it.

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Here is an overview of the main issues on the table during the COP27 talks:

WHAT ABOUT THE UNITED STATES AND CHINA?

The chief US negotiator has suggested that a meeting scheduled for Monday between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in Bali could also provide an important signal for the climate talks as they enter the home stretch.

With the impacts of climate change already being felt around the world, wealthy polluters have been pushed to hoard more money to help developing countries switch to clean energy and adapt to global warming; Increasingly, there are also calls for compensation to pay for climate-related losses.

China is by far the biggest polluter right now, but the US has the biggest historical pollution over time.

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KEEP COOL

A group of large emerging nations that includes oil and gas exporters pushed back on explicit references to maintaining the goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Egypt, which is chairing the talks, convened a three-hour meeting on Saturday in which the issue was repeatedly raised.

“1.5 is a matter of substance,” said Wael Aboulmagd, a senior Egyptian negotiator, adding that it was “not just China” that raised questions about the language used to refer to the target. Still, he hoped to find a way to get “maximum possible progress” on emissions reductions by the end of the meeting.

EMISSION REDUCTION

Negotiators are trying to put in place a mitigation program that would take into account the different measures that countries have committed to take in order to reduce emissions, including for specific sectors such as energy and transport. Many of these commitments are not formally part of the UN process, which means they cannot be easily reviewed at the annual meeting. A draft agreement circulated early on Saturday had more than 200 brackets, meaning large sections remained unresolved. Some countries want the plan to be valid for only one year, while others say a longer-term roadmap is needed. Expect fireworks in the coming days.

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U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS

While all countries are equal at the UN meeting, in practice little is done without the endorsement of the world’s two biggest emitters, China and the United States. Beijing canceled the formal climate dialogue following President Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and relations have been frosty ever since. US climate envoy John Kerry said on Saturday he had only had informal talks with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua lately. “I think we’re both waiting to see how things go with the G-20 and hopefully we can come back,” he told reporters.

AVOIDING FOSSIL FUELS

Last year’s meeting nearly collapsed on a demand for a final agreement that coal should be phased out. In the end, the countries agreed on several shortcomings, and climate activists fear that negotiators from countries heavily dependent on fossil fuels will try to renege on earlier commitments.

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MONEY MATTERS

Rich countries have failed to deliver on their promise to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poor countries. This has opened up a rift of mistrust that negotiators hope to fill with new commitments. But the needs are increasing and a new, higher target must be set from 2025.

Aminath Shauna, Maldives’ environment minister, said her island country conservatively estimates it will need $8 billion for coastal adaptation. And even that may not be enough, if the sea level rises too much. “It is very discouraging to see that it may be too late for the Maldives, but we still have to sort out (the issue of funding),” she said.

COMPENSATION

The subject of climate compensation was once considered taboo, due to concerns from rich countries that they might be liable for large sums. But intense pressure from developing countries has forced the issue of “loss and damage” onto the official agenda of the talks for the first time this year. It remains to be seen whether there will be an agreement to promote other technical work or the creation of a real fund.

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John Kerry said the United States hoped to get a deal “before 2024” but suggested that might not happen in Egypt. But he made it clear where the United States’ red line for Washington is: “The United States and many other countries will not establish a … legal structure related to compensation or liability.” That doesn’t mean the money won’t flow eventually. But it could qualify as aid, tied to existing funds, and require contributions from all major emitters to pass.

MORE DONORS

One way to raise additional funds and resolve the thorny issue of paying polluters would be for countries that have experienced economic booms over the past three decades to step up. The main focus is on China, the world’s largest emitter, but others could also be asked to open their wallets.

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SECONDARY OFFERS

Last year’s meeting saw a series of signed agreements that were not officially part of the talks. Some have also been unveiled in Egypt, although hopes for a series of announcements on Just Transition Partnerships – where developed countries help poorer countries wean themselves off fossil fuels – are unlikely to bear fruit until after COP27.

HOPE UNTIL THE END

Jennifer Morgan, a former Greenpeace director who recently became Germany’s climate envoy, described this year’s talks as “difficult”.

“But I can promise you that we will work until the very last second to make sure we can achieve an ambitious and fair outcome,” she said. “We aim for the stars while keeping our feet on the ground.”

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Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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