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Crunch time for UN climate talks as Friday’s deadline approaches

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — Global climate talks approached crises on Friday, the last scheduled day of negotiations expected to pass their deadline as the chances of a deal still seemed unclear.

The European Union came late on Thursday with a surprise proposal that could increase the chance of an agreement. The proposal would link compensation for climate disasters with tighter emissions controls, two of the thorniest issues at the meeting.

EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said on Friday that the bloc’s proposal on loss and damage and mitigation funding is “a last-ditch bid” that seeks to “find a compromise” between nations as negotiators negotiate a way forward at the United Nations climate talks in Egypt.

In climate negotiations, loss and damage refers to the idea that rich countries, which have historically contributed most to climate change, should compensate developing countries most affected. Mitigation refers to efforts to slow global warming, such as drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Timmermans said he was “encouraged” by the immediate response to the proposal and more involvement was expected.

“It’s about not having a failure here,” said Timmermans. “We cannot afford to have a failure. If our steps forward are not mutual, then obviously there will be failure. But I hope, I hope, we can prevent that.”

The proposal from the 27-nation EU offers a two-pronged approach that would provide poor countries with a pot of cash and push for sharper reductions in heat-trapping emissions by all countries, as well as the phase-out of all fossil fuels, including natural gas and oil.

Loss and damage has become a focal point at the COP27 climate talks that began two weeks ago. Poorer countries that bear the brunt of climate change, from rising sea levels to extreme flooding, have stepped up urgency, accusing wealthier polluters who have contributed most to global warming greenhouse gas emissions of being stuck. They insist they cannot wait another year for a fund to be set up to pay compensation.

Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.

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