COP27: countries poised to sign off on fund for climate damages

A potential breakthrough on the thorniest issue at COP27, a fund that pays poor countries for damages from climate change, could finally pave the way for an overarching deal from the climate talks.

"There is an agreement on loss and damage," Maldives environment minister Aminath Shauna said, though it still needs to be approved unanimously in a vote later today.

Under the draft proposal of a fund for "loss and damage", as the issue is called in the United Nations world, developed countries are "urged" to contribute to the fund, but details remain vague.

There are outstanding questions about which countries are vulnerable enough to qualify for the funding, which are obliged to pay in and whether the fund is accountable to the UN climate change body that convenes the COP conferences, or if it operates independently.

"We managed to make progress on an important outcome," said Wael Aboulmagd, who leads the Egyptian delegation.

The proposal, landing after the talks had already run into extra time, does not suggest major emerging economies such as China have to pay into the pot, a key ask of the European Union and the United States.

Loss and damage is the salient issue of this year's UN negotiations, meaning agreements on other key topics could fall into place as a result of progress on the fund.

Host nation Egypt today released another draft of the overarching political deal from COP27, known as the "cover text". It ignores India's request to phase down oil and natural gas, falling back on last year's agreement to phase down the dirtiest form of coal power.

Climate groups were disappointed that it allowed for wiggle room on global temperatures, referencing the more dangerous 2C warming limit as well as the far safer 1.5C that was talked up at COP26 in Glasgow last year.

Saudi Arabia, China and Russia want to fall back on the 2C language that was in the Paris Agreement, while many vulnerable small islands, the EU, the US and the UK are among those advocating for 1.5C.

Since the Paris climate accord was struck in 2015, scientists have realised the dangerous impacts of climate change are worse than they had projected at latitudes where temperatures are lower.

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'No deal better than bad deal'

The EU's climate chief Frans Timmermans earlier said that a "good decision is within reach, but all partners will have to work very hard to make that possible".

Yet he warned: "We want a good decision, but it's better to have no decision than a bad decision."

It is common for COP climate summits to run past the deadline into the final weekend, but Egypt has faced criticism for allowing things to run so close to the wire, in spite of praise for the skill and experience of its diplomats.

The team in charge only produced the first version of the draft deal on Friday morning, with hours left until the summit was due to close.

Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, defended its presidency today, saying it had been "fully involved".

"The issue now rests with the will of the parties" who must "rise to the occasion and take upon themselves the responsibility of finding the areas of convergence", he said.

This vast geopolitical forum is a fight for the narrative as well as outcomes, with no country wanting to end up with the blame if things fall through.

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