Updated Nov 17, 2022 - World

At COP27, oil and gas stay out of crosshairs — for now

Illustration of two pens criss-crossed forming an X in front of a photograph of flooding waters

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The initial draft for a COP27 agreement out this morning omits calls for phasing down all fossil fuels, which means the fraught meeting may not move beyond coal-focused goals from last year's summit.

Why it matters: The 20 pages of preliminary text released by the Egyptian COP president in Sharm el-Sheikh are a blank slate on how to compensate vulnerable nations for climate damages.

  • Wording on fossil fuels and specifics on payments for "loss and damage" are two of the most contentious and still-unresolved topics.

The big picture: The lack of a consensus agreement on fossil fuels is a blow to India, the U.S., the EU, small islands, and others that pushed to expand last year's call to phase down "unabated" coal use.

  • However, it could still reappear in subsequent drafts.
  • What the Egyptians put forward is a bulleted list of possible decision language, known as cover text. But instead of advancing the talks, it could actually complicate the task at hand.
  • Typically, as talks go down to the wire at such meetings, the decision texts get shorter, but this one grew compared to the first draft.

Zoom in: The document is notable for what is missing.

  • On climate damages, which concern the significant toll global warming is already taking in the countries that did the least to cause the problem, the document does note “deep concern towards the significant financial costs associated with loss and damage.”
  • However, talks between industrialized countries and developing nations over establishing a fund to pay for climate damages are bogged down, which led to placeholder language about a possible fund for compensating countries for climate damages.
  • As an example of such climate damages, a study released on Wednesday evening found that human-caused global warming made heavy rain that killed more than 800 in Nigeria and other countries this year about 80 times more likely and nearly 20% more intense.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed negotiators in Egypt after flying from the G20 summit in Bali. "The world is watching and there's a simple message to all of us: stand and deliver," he said.
  • "The time for talking on loss and damage finance is over. We need action."

Yes, but: The COP27 document reaffirms central elements of the Glasgow Climate Pact, including the importance of sticking with its 1.5°C temperature limit, doubling climate adaptation funding, and urging countries to make far more ambitious commitments to cutting emissions.

What they're saying: Nongovernmental organizations involved in the talks were quick to criticize the Egyptian COP leadership for the new text.

  • "This was intended to be a COP for implementation, where governments could showcase their progress and commit to significant new climate finance, action and targets, but that is not what we have seen," said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF global climate and energy lead, in a statement.

What's next: Expect new versions to drop, possibly as early as today, as countries offer their feedback.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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