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COP27 climate summit reaches halfway point, with warming limits, emissions, compensation in spotlight – ABC News

The UN climate talks in Egypt have reached their halfway point, with negotiators still working on draft agreements before ministers arrive next week to push for a substantial deal to fight climate change.

The two-week meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh started with strong appeals from world leaders for greater efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and help poor nations cope with global warming.

Scientists say the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere needs to be halved by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.

The 2015 pact set a target of ideally limiting a temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, but it left it up to countries to decide how they wanted to do that.

Here is a look at the main issues on the table at the COP27 talks.

Meetings between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping

The top US negotiator suggested that a planned meeting Monday between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sideline of the G20 meeting in Bali could also provide an important signal for the climate talks as they headed into the home stretch.

With impacts from climate change already felt across the globe, there’s been a push for wealthy polluters to stump up more cash to help developing countries shift to clean energy and adapt to global warming.

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Increasingly, there are also calls for compensation to pay for climate-related losses.

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

Pushback against 1.5C warming limit

A group of major emerging countries that includes oil-and-gas exporting nations has pushed back against explicit references to keeping the target of limiting global warming to under 1.5C.

Egypt, which is chairing the talks, convened a three-hour meeting on Saturday in which the issue was raised several times.

“1.5 is a substantive issue,” Wael Aboulmagd, a senior Egyptian negotiator said, adding that it was “not just China” which had raised questions about the language used to refer to the target.

Still, he was hopeful of finding a way of securing a “maximum possible advance” on reducing emissions by the meeting’s close.

Cutting emissions for energy, transport sectors

Negotiators are trying to put together a program that would capture the different measures countries have committed to in order to reduce emissions, including for specific sectors such as energy and transport.

Many of these pledges are not formally part of the UN process, meaning they cannot easily be scrutinised at the annual meeting.

A draft agreement circulated early on Saturday had more than 200 square brackets, meaning large sections were still unresolved.

Some countries want the plan to be valid for only one year, while others say a longer-term road map is needed.

Expect fireworks in the days ahead.

US-China relations

While all countries are equal at the UN meeting, in practice little gets done without the approval of the world’s two biggest emitters: China and the United States.

Nancy Pelosi sits at a desk with Ben Cardin, mid gesture.
Nancy Pelosi (right) is attending the talks.(Reuters: Kevin Lamarque )

US climate envoy John Kerry said on Saturday he had only held informal discussions with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua lately.

“I think we’re both waiting to see how things go with the G20 and hopefully we can return [to negotiations with China],” he told reporters.

Use of fossil fuels

Last year’s meeting almost collapsed over a demand for the final agreement to state that coal should be phased out.

In the end, countries agreed on several loopholes. 

This time, there are concerns among climate activists that negotiators from nations that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels might try to roll back previous commitments.

Financial support for poorer nations 

Rich countries have fallen short on a pledge to mobilise $US100 billion ($149.5 billion) a year by 2020 in climate financing for poor nations.

This has opened up a rift of distrust that negotiators are hoping to close with fresh pledges.

But needs are growing and a new, higher target needs to be set from 2025 onward.

Aminath Shauna sits at a desk.
Aminath Shauna also attended climate talks in Glasgow last year. (Reuters: Yves Herman )

Maldives Environment Minister Aminath Shauna said her island nation conservatively estimated it would need $US8 billion for coastal adaptation.

And even that may not be enough if sea levels rise too much.

“It is very disheartening to see that it may be too late for the Maldives, but we still need to address [the issue of finance],” Ms Shauna said.

Climate compensation ‘before 2024’

The subject of climate compensation was once considered taboo due to concerns from rich countries that they might be on the hook for vast sums.

But intense pressure from developing countries forced the issue of “loss and damage” onto the formal agenda at the talks for the first time this year.

Whether there will be a deal to promote further technical work or the creation of an actual fund remains to be seen.

Mr Kerry said the United States was hopeful of getting an agreement “before 2024” but suggested this might not come to pass in Egypt.

But he made Washington’s limits clear.

“The United States and many other countries will not establish some … legal structure that is tied to compensation or liability,” he said.

That doesn’t mean money won’t flow eventually.

But it might be branded as aid, tied into existing funds and require contributions from all major emitters if it’s to pass.

One way to raise additional cash and resolve the thorny issue of polluter payment would be for those countries that have seen an economic boom in the past three decades to step up.

The focus is chiefly on China, the world’s biggest emitter, but other nations could be asked to open their purses too. 

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Climate protests

Hundreds of environmental activists are demanding that industrialised nations pay for the cost of global warming.

Protests have mostly been muted at the conference, with activists blaming the high cost of travel and accommodation, as well as restrictions in the isolated city, for a limited number of demonstrators.

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The protesters have marched through the conference’s “Blue Zone”, which is considered United Nations territory and governed by the global body’s rules.

That has given the activists a bit more space to voice their opinions than in the rest of the country, where Egypt’s authoritarian government essentially bars protests.

Still, there were signs that Egypt was attempting to exert pressure inside the conference venue.

Attendees have complained about being photographed and filmed at the German pavilion, prompting officials to raise concerns.

“We expect all participants in the UN climate conference to be able to work and negotiate under safe conditions,” Germany’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“This is not just true for the German [contingent] but for all delegations, as well as representatives of civil society and the media. We’re in continuous contact with the Egyptian side on this.”

Three people hold up a flag in a crowd as a screen shows Joe Biden speaking.
Protesters were removed during Joe Biden’s speech. (Reuters: Mohamed Abd El Ghany )

During Saturday’s rally, protesters chanted, sang, and danced in an area not far from where the negotiations were taking place.

“Pay for loss and damage now,” Friday Nbani, a Nigerian environmental activist who was leading a group of African protesters, said.

“Africa is crying and its people are dying,” Ms Nbani said.



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