The COP27 agreement provides a landmark on 'loss and damage', but not by much

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, November 20 (Reuters) - Countries adopted a hard-fought final agreement at the COP27 climate summit early Sunday that set up a fund to help poor countries hit by climate disasters - but did not step up efforts to tackle emissions that cause it.

After tense negotiations that lasted all night, the presidency of COP27 Egypt released the final text for the deal and concurrently held a plenary session to finalize it soon.

The swift approval to create a special loss and damage fund still leaves many of the fund's most contentious decisions well into next year, including who should pay it.

Negotiators did not mind when COP27 President Sameh Shoukry rambled on about the last agenda item. And by dawn on the summit spot in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, a deal had been struck.

Despite not having an agreement for tougher emission cuts, "we are following the agreements that are here because we want to support the most vulnerable," said Germany's climate secretary Jennifer Morgan, visibly annoyed.

Delegates lauded the breakthrough in setting up a climate justice fund, for its purpose of helping vulnerable countries cope with hurricanes, floods and other disasters triggered by rich countries' historic carbon emissions.

When asked by Reuters whether the goals of stronger climate-fighting ambitions had compromised for the deal, Mexico's chief climate negotiator Camila Zepeda summed up the mood among negotiators who were exhausted.

"Maybe. You win when you can."


The two-week summit has been seen as a test of global resolve to fight climate change - even as wars in Europe, turmoil in energy markets and rampant consumer inflation distract international attention.

Dubbed the "COP of Africa," the summit in Egypt has vowed to highlight the plight of poor countries facing the most dire consequences of global warming caused primarily by rich industrial nations.

The United States also supports loss and damage provisions, but climate envoy John Kerry did not attend the session after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.

Negotiators from the European Union and other countries have said before that they are concerned about efforts to block measures to strengthen last year's Glasgow Climate Pact.

"It is deeply frustrating to see lagging mitigation measures and the shutdown of fossil energy being hindered by a number of major emitters and oil producers," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement.

In line with previous iterations, the agreed agreement does not contain the references required by India and several other delegates to phase out "all fossil fuels".

Instead it calls on countries to take steps towards "the gradual reduction of undiminished coal power and the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies," as agreed at the Glasgow COP26 summit.

"Too many parties are not ready to make more progress today in the fight against the climate crisis," said EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans, describing the deal as "an insufficient step forward for people and the planet."

The text also includes references to "low emission energy", which has raised concerns among some that it opens the door to increased use of natural gas - a fossil fuel that produces carbon dioxide and methane emissions.

"It doesn't completely cut ties with Glasgow, but it doesn't raise ambitions at all," Norway's Climate Minister Espen Barth Eide told reporters.

Small island nations facing climate-driven sea level rise have pushed for a loss-and-damage deal, but lament their lack of ambition to limit emissions.

"I recognize the progress we made at COP27" in terms of setting up a fund, Maldives climate minister Aminath Shauna told the plenary. But "we have failed on mitigation... We have to make sure that we raise our ambition to peak emissions by 2025. We have to phase out fossil fuels."

The climate envoy from the Marshall Islands said he was "tired" but pleased with the funding's approval.

"So many people this week have been telling us we're not getting it. So glad they were wrong," Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner said by email. Still, "I wish we'd phased out fossil fuels. The current text isn't enough."

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