The vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, and several ministers of Climate Change and the Environment of the member countries – among them, the Spanish vice-president Teresa Ribera – came out this Saturday in droves to warn of the risk that the summit of the UN on climate change, which is being held in the Egyptian town of Sharm el Sheikh, a declaration is issued in which, far from advancing in the fight against global warming, it is going backwards. “It is better not to have a decision than to have a bad decision,” said Timmermans, who has even left the door open for the EU to leave the meeting.
The summit should have ended on Friday, but the negotiations will continue through this Saturday. And some texts that the presidency of the summit, in the hands of Egypt as the host country, has been showing, have disturbed the community club, whose representatives have decided to issue this warning early in the morning. “We are concerned about some of the things we have seen and heard,” acknowledged Timmermans, who also expressed hope that an agreement could finally be reached that would put an end to this complicated summit.
The fear of the European countries is that some of the decisions included in the final declaration drafts would mean giving up the objective that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. At the moment we are at 1.1 degrees, and the cut plans that all the signatories of the Paris Agreement have on the table would lead to a warming of about 2.5 degrees, in the best of cases. That is why national plans need to be hardened. At last year’s summit in Glasgow, a call was made for nations to strengthen these roadmaps any time, every year if necessary.
The presidency of the COP has released a draft of the final declaration of the summit at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday in which no reference is made to the progressive elimination of all fossil fuels, only coal is mentioned, and it does not state that global emissions must reach their peak in 2025 to keep the 1.5 degree target alive, as demanded by Europe.
“All the ministers are willing to leave if we do not get a good result,” Timmermans had assured before this draft was known. For her part, Spanish Vice-President Teresa Ribera has warned that the “EU cannot accept, and considers it ridiculous” to leave this conference by taking a step back from what was agreed last year in Glasgow. Although he is not present at the COP27 talks, the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, has publicly shown his support for the European negotiators. He has said via Twitter: “We cannot accept a step back from Glasgow that puts the 1.5° target at stake. We need to respond to the science and strengthen solidarity with the most vulnerable.”
The European bloc was joined this Saturday afternoon by the so-called High Ambition Coalition, of which, in addition to the EU, some thirty countries such as the United Kingdom or the Marshall Islands are part. In a joint statement they have demanded that the 1.5 degree objective be kept alive and that for this the peak of emissions in 2025 and the progressive elimination of the use of all fossil fuels be included in the final declaration.
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Asked about the criticism from Europe, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, who holds the presidency of COP27, has assured that his proposal does keep the goal of 1.5 degrees alive. The draft mentions the objective of the Paris Agreement, which effectively pursues that the increase in temperature remains below two degrees and efforts are made so that it does not exceed 1.5.
For the 1.5 goal to stay alive, as Shoukry says, science has made it clear that several things are needed. For example, that global greenhouse gas emissions, which continue to grow year after year, reach their ceiling in 2025 and then fall drastically. In 2030, they should have been reduced by 45% compared to those of 2010. But current plans now lead to a decrease of between 5% and 10%.
That is why it is necessary that the cuts be accelerated and that the countries commit more. Both the US and the EU defend that their national programs are aligned with that 45% cut. For this reason, when people talk about increasing ambition, they usually look at China, which is now the nation that emits the most gases in the world. This country aims to reach the peak of its carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas, before 2030 and reduce them from there, something much less ambitious than what the Americans and the members of the community club foresee.
But China, like other emerging countries, argues that there are “common but differentiated” responsibilities for climate change, and that developed countries —basically, OECD members— should make greater efforts in all directions. The Asian country supports this argument in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, which is the legal umbrella under which these summits are held.
That agreement, in effect, divided the world into two blocks: the developed countries —which must make more efforts, as they are historically responsible for climate change— and the rest. The problem is that 30 years later the world has changed and the debate is no longer so much between developed and developing countries, but between large emitters and the rest, explains Vice President Ribera. And, among the first four in the world, two belong to the former developed bloc (USA and the EU) and two others are left out of this consideration and do not feel concerned to be more ambitious (China and India).
This same distinction is at the center of the debate when talking about the creation of a fund for losses and damages that climate change causes and will cause, another issue that keeps negotiations blocked at this summit. After the pressure of the majority of the countries against the members of the OECD, the EU has opened up to the creation of this fund, something that it rejected until Thursday. Of course, it asks that it not only be endowed by developed countries, but also that other countries help, again referring to China, and economic organizations of different types.
In addition, the EU wants only countries considered very vulnerable to climate change to have access, and not all those that are not within the former category of developing countries. It also demands that this fund be accompanied by a closing declaration of the ambitious summit in terms of cutting emissions — establishing that peak of global emissions for 2025 — and that the goal of 1.5 degrees be kept alive. After the negotiations this Saturday, the positions of all the countries had come quite close and an agreement in principle had been reached for the creation of this new loss and damage fund for the most vulnerable States next year. The wording of the text is open enough so that financing does not fall solely on developed countries. But this agreement was at the expense of closing the entire summit with the final declaration, where the conflicts are specified.
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