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As COP27 approaches its deadline, Europe pitches a funding deal to save the conference

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — The European Union’s chief climate negotiator on Friday morning pitched the bloc’s plan to link disaster funds to emissions cuts as a last-ditch offer to avoid the annual climate summit failing in the world’s waning hours.

The UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27, is starting what should be its last day with great uncertainty and there are preparations for negotiations that will drag on well past their scheduled 6pm conclusion.

Meanwhile, diplomats first got a glimpse of an overarching “cover decision” on Friday when the Egyptian hosts of the meeting released a document reiterating that rapid emissions cuts were needed to meet global warming targets, but that little progress was made on the meeting’s most controversial issue: financing for developing countries hurt by a warming world.

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Another draft proposal circulated late Thursday contained three possible solutions to the deadlock. Nations could agree to establish a special fund this year, continue negotiations with a view to establishing the fund at next year’s COP or commit only to “new and improved financing arrangements” without settling with a designated fund.

Frans Timmermans, chief negotiator for the European Union, said the plan, presented late Thursday night, goes as far as the bloc can negotiate. It would admit developing countries that it says have been unequivocal in their demands for a designated fund to compensate them for the destruction caused by climate change, and in return all countries should start reducing their global warming emissions by 2025.

“I have to say that this is our last offer,” Timmermans told reporters on Friday morning. “It’s about not failing here. We cannot afford failure. If our steps forward are not mutual, then clearly there will be failure.”

The EU compromise would put pressure on any major negotiating power at the annual summit. China and India should take new steps to curb the escalating emissions to which they have been reluctant. The hard-hit countries would receive a fund, but might have to negotiate money for years to fill it. And language specifying that only “particularly vulnerable countries” can call on the fund could break the negotiating bloc of more than 100 developing countries that helped push this issue onto the conference agenda.

Climate talks falter on finances, fossil fuels as time passes

The United States has tried for years to block this kind of “loss and damage” funding – parlance in these talks for the irreversible, unavoidable impacts of climate change, often most severe in poor countries and fueled in part by emissions from industrialized nations. But U.S. opposition has softened this year, and Timmermans said Thursday night U.S. officials were very interested in how the European proposal tied the fund to emission-mitigation requirements.

Preeti Bhandari, senior adviser in the global climate program and financial center of the World Resources Institute think tank, said the EU’s ability to build consensus on its proposal was key to the success of the conference.

“I really hope this proposal doesn’t fall apart because that would mean the unraveling of this COP,” she said.

The four-page draft cover text released Friday is a more consolidated version of an extensive list of proposals that Egypt’s COP27 presidency had published the day before. It follows closely the language agreed at last year’s climate conference in Glasgow and at a meeting of major economies in Bali this week, but does not contain any proposals – such as a call to phase out all fossil fuels – which many had hoped they would represent progress in global efforts to combat climate change.

Tellingly, the cover design still doesn’t detail the issue that could make or break the conference – how to pay for it all: “{Placeholder funding arrangement responds to loss and damage}” is all it says.

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