SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — U.S. climate envoy John Kerry tested positive for COVID-19 during the UN climate talks in Egypt, a spokeswoman said late Friday evening. the latest setback for what appeared to be stalled negotiations that had already gone into overtime.
“He is fully vaccinated and boosted and has mild symptoms. He is working with his negotiating team and overseas counterparts over the phone to ensure the success of COP27,” spokeswoman Whitney Smith wrote in a statement late Friday.
Kerry’s illness is sure to add to concerns over the negotiations, which were due to end on Friday but were continuing with no clear end in sight. A former US senator and secretary of state, Kerry has close relationships with leaders around the world and carries a lot of weight in international talks.
Negotiations, at least those in public, experienced a lull on Friday afternoon as press conferences and plenaries were postponed or cancelled. Diplomats said they hoped for progress late overnight as they rebooked airlines for extended overtime talks in Egypt.
Delegates said progress had been made, particularly on the most difficult sticking point. It’s the issue of ‘loss and damage’, which is the idea of some kind of compensation – a dedicated fund or something less formal – from rich countries to help poor countries already hard hit by extreme weather events. compounded by decades of burning fossil fuels by developed countries.
“I think we’re a little bit out of time,” said the World Resources Institute’s international climate director, David Waskow. “Loss and damage is central to what needs to be done to cross the finish line.”
After being somewhat isolated by not favoring a fund dedicated to loss and damage, there is talk of the United States working on another proposal with the European Union, which produced a surprise offer on Thursday, Waskow said. He also noted that one problem is the surprising unity of the poorest nations, often called the G-77 and China, on the issue, insisting on the creation of a fund at this summit.
“We’re very busy and they’re making progress and they’ve gotten some clarity on all positions,” Molwyn Joseph, who spoke on behalf of the small island states, told The Associated Press.
“It is possible that we will get a result, but it could also fail at the last minute,” said New Zealand Minister for Climate Change James Shaw. “And I think if that happened it would be a real shame because it’s as close (in terms of casualties and damage) as we’ve ever been before.”
Ghana’s Nakeeyat Dramani Sam has chastised delegates at the UN climate talks this year, saying they would act faster to curb global warming if they were his age.
“It’s an emergency,” she told negotiators, holding a sign that read “Late payment.” “If you were all young people like me, wouldn’t you have already agreed to do what it takes to save our planet?
But after his standing ovation, it was the return of nations squabbling over several thorny issues, with the Egyptian presidency acknowledging the talks would go into extra time on Saturday, if not longer.
“Time is not on our side,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Speaking as chair of the summit, he pledged to try to find common ground on key issues on Friday and Saturday. “The global community expects us to be bold and ambitious.”
The biggest fight is over what the 10-year-old activist and author alluded to. Nations are divided on a few competing options when it comes to casualties and damage. Pakistani Climate Minister Sherry Rehman told her fellow negotiators that two of the proposed options that do not immediately provide a fund “are not tenable” for the 77 poorest countries and China.
A new draft Egyptian presidential cover decision was released Friday morning, half the size of Thursday’s 20-page document that has been criticized for being vague and bloated. But this 10-page novella still has little new from previous years and plenty of places with options yet to be decided. And some of the most discussed proposals, from the European Union, Barbados and India, are not included, reflecting the priorities of the Egyptian presidency.
The EU made a surprise proposal on Thursday night that called for the creation of a fund for ‘loss and damage’ payments to the most vulnerable nations, an idea long resisted by some wealthy countries in Europe and the US . But it would also require emerging economies such as China, the second-biggest polluter after the United States, to contribute and link any deal to tougher emissions cuts.
“We are making it clear that Europe is on the side of the most vulnerable states,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. “Others can now show which side they are on.”
The EU proposal would also require increased efforts on “mitigation”, the term used for work aimed at slowing global warming, such as drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also adopts a call for the phasing out of all fossil fuels – a measure proposed for the first time by India and a dramatic step forward from previous commitments to phase out coal.
Unless emissions were cut more sharply, “no money in the world could pay for the damages and losses of the future,” Baerbock said.
EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said Friday that the bloc’s proposal on loss and damage financing and mitigation is “a final offer” that seeks to “find a compromise” between countries as negotiators are working on a way forward at the UN climate talks in Egypt. .
Environmental group Action Aid called the proposal a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” because it doesn’t go far enough.
The EU plan runs counter to a proposal by the Group of 77 and China that would create a fund but only require developed countries to contribute, except for major polluters such as China and India.
China, which had been silent for much of the talks, and Saudi Arabia both said money for a loss and damage fund should not come from them. Developed countries should foot the bill, China said. Both also insisted that the 2015 Paris Agreement which aims to limit global warming to an ambitious increase of 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) should not be changed, which can be interpreted as not reinforcing efforts.
As for the United States, there was “a deafening silence” after the EU revealed its proposal, said Preety Bhandari, senior adviser on climate finance at the World Resources Institute. “So I assume that overnight and during the day there will be a lot of diplomatic contacts between the different parties to finally help us make the decision on the funding of loss and damage here at COP27.”
The EU plan is far from the only proposal.
Former Irish President Mary Robinson, chair of The Elders, a group of retired leaders, praised the three options on loss and damage that German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan and Chile’s minister for Environment Maisa Rojas elaborated, saying that “this puts us on the verge of a historic breakthrough. We have moved from the very absence of loss and damage financing on the COP27 agenda to having a fund, a mechanism and a financing stream within our reach.
Friday’s draft from the Egyptian presidency includes vague references to reforming multilateral development banks, but does not include or reference Bridgetown’s detailed initiative on financial reform for Barbados and its Prime Minister Mia Mottley. .
Also missing is a controversial Indian proposal to change language in the Glasgow Pact that calls for a phase-out of coal to a phase-out of all fossil fuels, including oil and natural gas. Egypt has dramatically increased natural gas production from newly discovered fields in recent years and is a close ally of fossil powers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The idea behind extending the language to all fossil fuels is that a coal-only phase-out primarily hurts developing countries, while it tackles the emissions problem more directly and across the board, according to the report. long-time negotiations analyst Alden Meyer of the E3G think tank.
Samy Magdy, Frank Jordans and Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.
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