The lines in the sand must be drawn to reach a climate deal

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — As international climate talks in the Egyptian desert enter their final days, negotiators are seeking to shift key countries’ lines to the sand on multiple issues, including reparations for climate disasters, reducing phased out of all fossil fuel use and further financial aid for poor nations.

The outcome document of the annual United Nations climate rally, known as COP27, must be unanimous. There are at least a half-dozen instances where nations are “taking the negotiations hostage” by taking tough and seemingly inflexible positions, said Alden Meyer, a longtime observer of the negotiations at think tank E3G.

And poor nations are about to publicly complain about Egypt’s presidency of the rally and its “inaction” at a news conference early Thursday afternoon.

Spoilers have emerged on multiple fronts, including the US, Saudi Arabia, and China resisting the reforms demanded by developed and developing nations.

As for the almighty issue of providing money to countries hit by climate-related disasters — referred to as “loss and damage” in negotiators’ parlance — the US opposes any suggestion that this should be labeled reparations, let alone of reparations, for decades of greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized nations.

Yet small island nations are talking about killing any deals if they don’t get money for climate disasters they claim were caused by wealthy polluters.

Another big point of contention is who pays. European countries have backed island nations’ calls for a “mosaic” of financial deals by tapping into public and private sources of money. But there are big differences among negotiators as to whether all big issuers should pay; China and India, big polluters, argue they shouldn’t contribute because they are still officially considered developing nations.

The issue of loss and damage is one of the three financial aid plans discussed. Wealthy nations have agreed in previous conferences to spend $100 billion a year to help poorer countries develop cleaner energy systems and adapt to prevent future disasters, though they have lagged behind in providing the funds.

Loss and damages are about paying the cost of climate impacts that are already unavoidable, such as extreme weather events and sea level rise. The 2015 Paris Agreement stated that the issue “does not entail or provide a basis for any liability or reparations”, but that option remains open in the broader United Nations climate framework in which annual negotiations take place.

Some insiders say they are worried they won’t get any kind of consensus on the issue, but they aren’t willing to give up hope.

Meanwhile, a “Lula lovefest” continued in Sharm el-Sheikh, when Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who made great strides in his past term in the fight against deforestation, drew more attention during a session on activism and participation in government.

On Wednesday, crowds cheered him, criticizing rich nations and demanding that the climate summit be held in the Amazon. His predecessor is often criticized for lack of action on climate change.

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