Countries struggled to reach an agreement at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, with some threatening to walk away if negotiators failed to make progress on fighting climate change.
With the talks already in overtime, officials from the 27-country European Union said on Saturday they were worried about a lack of progress overnight – and even the possibility of backsliding from parts of the COP26 climate deal agreed in Glasgow, Scotland, last year.
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“We need to move forward, not backwards and all [EU] 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,” said EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the summit, he called on other parties to the negotiations to reciprocate efforts to find a deal, particularly on the issue of funding for poorer countries hit by climate disasters.
“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.”
Sameh Shoukry, president of the COP27 climate summit, told the nearly 200 nations gathered in Egypt to “rise to the occasion” as the success of the conference hung in the balance.
Speaking a day after the summit was supposed to end, Shoukry added he knew there was a lot of “dissatisfaction” among all parties, but called on nations to show determination to reach a consensus.
New Zealand’s climate minister said a draft of the final document circulated by the presidency “has been received quite poorly by pretty much everybody”, adding delegations were going into another round of talks.
Speaking to reporters, James Shaw called the draft “entirely unsatisfactory”.
He added the proposal “abandons really any hope of achieving 1.5 [degrees Celsius; 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit]”, referring to the warming limit agreed at the Paris agreement back in 2015.
Shoukry said: “The issue now rests with the will of the parties. The [draft] text does keep the 1.5 alive.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said responsibility “now lies in the hands of the Egyptian COP presidency”.
The European Union had made clear overnight “we will not sign a paper here that diverges significantly from the 1.5C path, that would bury the goal of 1.5 degrees”, Baerbock said.
“If these climate conferences set us back then we wouldn’t have needed to travel here in the first place,” she said.
An official speaking on behalf of the African group of negotiators said they knew little about the negotiations.
“We keep hearing of nightlong side meetings to break the deadlock, but we have not been involved and we are waiting to see what it is they will come up with before we decide,” they said.
‘Fight for a good planet’
There was also growing frustration among negotiators about the way the Egyptian presidency was chairing the talks. Some bemoaned a lack of transparency in the consultations, while others said the process was unpredictable compared with previous talks.
The meeting known as COP27 opened two weeks ago and had been scheduled to wrap up on Friday but looks set to drag on through the weekend.
Many of the more than 40,000 attendees have left town, and workers started packing up the vast pavilions in the sprawling conference zone.
At the youth pavilion, a gathering spot for young activists, a pile of handwritten postcards from children to negotiators was left on a table, in what was perhaps an apt metaphor for the state of play as the talks made scant progress.
“Dear COP27 negotiators,” read one card. “Thank you for going to COP27 this year. I hope you can bring more back this time. Don’t forget to mention keeping it at 1.5, having big heatwaves this year and keep fight for a good planet.”