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John Kerry

John Kerry, United States special presidential envoy for climate speaks in the U.S. Center Pavilion during the COP27 U.N. Climate Change Conference on November 16, 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. (Photo: Dominika Zarzycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Colossal Fossil': US 'Isolated' in Opposition to Loss and Damage Fund at COP27

A draft proposal put forward by Egypt on Saturday included funding for countries devastated by the climate crisis, but like an earlier draft left out a phaseout of fossil fuel use.

Julia Conley

Negotiators on Saturday were reviewing a new proposal put forward by the Egyptian delegation at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, which included a compromise on "loss and damage" funding for developing countries that have been hardest-hit by the climate crisis—but lacked a call for a fossil fuel phaseout.

Under pressure from the Global South, the issue of loss and damage has been a major focus at the conference, which is now in overtime as negotiators haggle over loss and damage as well as concrete steps to phase out all fossil fuel pollution.

"The fossil fuel lobby is shaping the deal here and we cannot afford this."

The U.S. has emerged as a holdout regarding the creation of funding mechanisms for countries in the Global South, where millions are facing drought-fueled hunger crises, catastrophic flooding, and other climate impacts despite their countries contributing a tiny fraction of the carbon emissions caused by the U.S., the biggest historic fossil fuel emitter in the world.

The draft proposal offered by the Egyptian hosts of the conference on Saturday included a dedicated loss and damage fund that would be set up by the end of 2021 and a committee that would decide how the fund should operate, with those plans finalized at next year's conference, COP28 in Dubai. The proposal "urges" countries in the Global North to contribute to the fund.

The U.S. delegation, led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, has blocked the inclusion of a dedicated loss and damage fund in the conference's final agreement—with the country's stonewalling earning it the title of "colossal fossil" at a ceremony organized by climate campaigners on Friday.

"Sadly, the U.S. traded its supposed climate ambition for some dino-sized hypocrisy at this summit," Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Guardian.

Kerry told Politico on Wednesday that the U.S. would back a resolution that calls for a loss and damage plan being finalized no later than 2024, but the United States' position on the latest draft proposal was unclear on Saturday.

The European Union in recent days has joined developing countries in pushing for loss and damage financing, with E.U. climate envoy Frans Timmermans releasing a proposal Friday—leaving the U.S. "stranded," as Politico reported. The American delegation did not speak at the session where Timmermanns unveiled the E.U. proposal.

"The U.S. might end up being isolated from the entire conversation, and therefore has no other choice but to come on board," Seve Paeniu, finance minister for Tuvalu, told the outlet.

Negotiations in the final hours of the gathering may also be logistically complicated by Kerry's Covid-19 diagnosis, which was reported Friday.

While the proposal put forward by the Egyptians made progress on loss and damage, it did not include a call for all countries to phase out the use of oil and gas. Instead, like the first draft document issued earlier this week, it made a call to "accelerate efforts toward the phase-down of unabated coal power and phaseout of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies," as the agreement out of COP26 in Glasgow did one year ago.

Timmermanns threatened to walk out of negotiations Saturday morning, warning, "We cannot accept that 1.5°C dies here and today," in reference to the Paris climate agreement's goal of limiting planetary heating to 1.5°C above preindustrial temperatures.

"We are already in overtime at COP27 and our message is very clear—we cannot afford a bad deal," said Zeina Khalil Hajj. "The world around us is on fire, we cannot delay implementing 1.5°C." 

Hajj noted that more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists have attended the talks where negotiators are now failing to hammer out a deal that takes into consideration repeated warnings from climate experts regarding the continued use of oil and gas.

"The fossil fuel lobby is shaping the deal here and we cannot afford this," she said. "It is now up to the presidency to lead us in [the right] direction and we call upon the Egyptian presidency and the negotiating parties to put people's health, our future and the planet ahead of fossil fuel company profits."

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