EU prepared to ‘walk away’ from bad Cop27 agreement, climate chief warns

The European Union has warned it is prepared to walk away from Cop27 climate negotiations if they fail to deliver an outcome that rises to the challenge of tackling the climate emergency.

Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice president in charge of climate issues, told reporters at the critical climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh that he was concerned by some of the developments he had witnessed overnight.

"We need to move forward, not backwards and all ministers ... are prepared to walk away if we do not have a result that does justice to what the world is waiting for - namely that we do something about this climate crisis," he said, referring to European officials.

Cop27 was due to close at 6pm local time (4 pm GMT) on Friday, but has overrun with no signs of an imminent agreement early Saturday.

Mr Timmermans called on other parties to reciprocate efforts to reach a deal, particularly on the issue of funding for vulnerable nations that have been particularly impacted by the climate crisis.

"We believe that a positive result today is still within reach. But we are worried about some of the things we have seen and heard over the last, let’s say, 12 hours," he said.

"We’d rather have no decision than a bad decision."

The issue of compensating countries for the irreparable damage or loss they have suffered due to the climate crisis has dominated this conference from day one.

Developed nations, grown rich by burning fossil fuels, have admitted that loss and damage reparations need to be addressed. But many, including the United States, have pushed back on the concept of a new fund.

Chief among their concerns is a fear of being held financially liable for their emissions. Losses are incalculable but by 2030 they are estimated to cost developing countries between $290bn and $580bn annually, rising to $132–741bn by 2050.

The European Union proposed its own solution to the question of loss and damage on Thursday. It said it would accept a fund being established at Cop27 on the condition that it was targeted at the most vulnerable countries, and it has “a broad funder base”.

This means taking into account the economic situation of countries in 2022 and not in 1992, Mr Timmermans said.

The conditions appear to suggest that the European Union is not willing for only historically rich countries to foot the bill but wants to see emerging economies that have grown and developed fast over the past three decades pay too.

The other proposals reportedly on the table for loss and damage include setting up a process to establish whether a fund is needed, and for a fund to be established at Cop27 and a transitional committee set up to make sure it was operational in the next two years.

Also seemingly delaying progress are concerns around keeping “1.5C alive”, despite Cop27 President Sameh Shoukry telling reporters on Saturday morning that the text - which is still being negotiated - does do just that.

“Keeping 1.5C alive” was the tagline of Cop26 in Glasgow and means limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The world has already warmed by at least 1.1C, with many scientists saying that figure is out of date.

France’s minister for the energy transition said on Saturday that at this point there was still no satisfactory agreement capable of rising to the challenge of the climate emergency.

“We can’t let the 1.5C global heating objective die in Sharm el-Sheikh,” Agnes Pannier-Runacher posted on Twitter.

A Western official told The Independent this week that Brazil, China and Russia were among the countries backsliding on commitments to “keep 1.5C alive”.

The official said the countries were pushing to stick to the Paris temperature goal of “well below 2C” rather than the more ambitious 1.5C - a goal that all countries “reaffirmed” last year at Cop26 in Glasgow.

India has also been pushing for a return to the Paris Agreement language that said countries should reach net zero by the second half of the century, rather than around 2050 as specified in the Glasgow Climate Pact, the official said.

The Independent has contacted the countries for comment.