Nations reach preliminary agreement on payments as climate talks wind down

Yet a turning point in the talks came on Friday, when negotiators said the United States had made a significant break from its past positions by agreeing to the creation of a fund that would pay developing countries for the damages they suffer because of climatic damage. Washington has long opposed such a fund for fear it would expose the United States to legal action for all the carbon it has released into the atmosphere over the past century and a half.

Seve Paeniu, finance minister of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, confirmed on Saturday that an agreement had been reached to establish a fund for payments, one of the most contentious issues at the summit.

At the same time, US negotiators have insisted that China, the world’s second-largest economy and current leader in greenhouse gas pollution, contribute to such a fund. China, citing a 1992 UN agreement classifying it as a developing country, argued it should receive payments instead.

US resistance to a climate fund has drawn constant criticism from delegates representing countries threatened by climate change, even as President Joe Biden has sought to use the summit to reaffirm US leadership in the fight against global warming.

An EU official said the not-yet-final deal “decides to establish new funding arrangements to help developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change respond to loss and damage.”

The same official said a clause in the draft text that referred to “identifying and expanding funding sources” was a vague reference to broadening the base of countries that would contribute to the fund. The EU will work over the next year to make sure this benchmark applies to countries like China and Saudi Arabia.

The talks in Egypt paved the way for more successful negotiations at the upcoming UN climate summit, scheduled for late 2023 in the United Arab Emirates. These discussions will attempt to develop more details on the design of the new fund.

But with major aspects of the negotiations still underway in Sharm el-Sheikh, particularly on a program to encourage deeper reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who leads the talks, cautioned against banking just one aspect of the deal.

“I don’t want to speculate or prejudice the ongoing discussions and negotiations,” he said.

Sara Schonhardt contributed to this report.


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