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UN climate talks end in acrimony and accusations of betrayal – Financial Times

Rich countries led by the US and the EU were accused of betraying poorer nations over the issue of finance to combat climate change, after two weeks of tense UN climate talks in the German city of Bonn ended acrimoniously.

The fraught discussions marked the first major UN climate meeting since the COP26 summit in Glasgow last year, with global negotiators laying the groundwork for an agreement at the COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh this November.

But observers said the meeting, characterised by infighting, stalling and political game-playing, had rendered the talks disappointing. The unsatisfactory outcome ratcheted up pressure on the Egyptian host country to engender consensus in the five months ahead of COP27, they said.

“We left Glasgow with a real sense of political urgency,” but talks in Bonn were “divorced from that political reality,” said Alex Scott, from environmental think-tank E3G. “The result is a huge agenda left for the Egyptian presidency to take forward.”

The frustration of UN secretary-general António Guterres with the lack of progress in Bonn was evident as he lashed out at the fossil fuel industry for deploying “the same scandalous tactics as Big Tobacco”. It had invested in “pseudoscience and public relations — with a false narrative to minimise their responsibility for climate change”, he said in a speech on Friday.

The deflating conclusion to the talks comes in the context of rising inflation and the food and energy crises that have been driven by the Ukraine war. The war has sparked a scramble by countries to source fossil fuels from countries other than Russia, igniting concerns that climate objectives may be placed in jeopardy.

The wide-ranging agenda for negotiators in Bonn included how to cut emissions faster, adapt to climatic change impacts that are already occurring and international finance to combat and compensate for the effects of climate change.

One of the most prominent and fiery debates was over financial support for “loss and damage”, or the devastation caused to developing countries by hazards such as sea level rise.

“There are not many times when you have every major global south country group unanimously united in a fight, and this is one of those times,” said Rachel Rose Jackson, director of climate research & policy at campaign group Corporate Accountability.

Countries including the US and EU pushed back against calls for a new loss and damage financing facility — something they also rejected in Glasgow. The EU and US “talk about urgency but don’t recognise their responsibility to have a frank discussion about what needs to be fixed to truly tackle loss and damage”, said Eddy Pérez, international climate diplomacy manager at Climate Action Network Canada.

Rich countries have long resisted discussing “loss and damage”, fearing the economic and political ramifications of committing the substantial amounts that would be required to compensate poorer countries for the consequences of producing historical emissions that have caused global warming.

Faced with political opposition to his own climate funding package, US president Joe Biden made a fresh push for global pledges on several areas related to global warming, at a Major Economies Forum on energy and climate he hosted virtually on Friday.

The Biden administration targets include the capture of methane emissions from oil and gas production by 2030, the ramp up of adoption of electric vehicles and green shipping, as well a focus on fertilisers and alternatives to alleviate food security issues raised by shortages caused by the Ukraine war.

This comes even as the US president has been calling on oil and gas companies, notably in Saudi Arabia, to ramp up production to reduce soaring fuel prices and the inflation that is creating economic hardship for Americans.

Nonetheless Biden administration officials insisted there was no conflict between the two goals and tackling climate change would not be sacrificed due to high prices.

Another priority topic in Bonn was how to accelerate emissions cuts and close the “gap” between the 2.7C temperature rise since pre-industrial times, that current plans put the world on track to hit, and the 1.5C ambition in the Paris agreement on climate change.

But these talks were also mired in disagreement. A draft text of a proposed work programme mentioned “concrete actions by major emitters with capabilities”, but that language was removed from the final notes, which outlined the discussions but did not bind countries in an agreement.

China, the world’s biggest annual emitter, was among those blocking greater ambition, people familiar with the talks said.

Several diplomatic flashpoints this year could provide opportunities for leaders to make progress ahead of COP27, such as the meeting of the G7 group of nations next week where the issue of food and energy security is expected to be central.

The “key thing” missing in Bonn was a “collaborative approach” in finding a way forward, said Tom Evans, from E3G. “We can’t solve this crisis if we play the blame game.”

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