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November 18, 2022

Happy Friday. Axios climate expert Andrew Freedman brings us his insider's eye on the UN climate summit, which is headed into overtime today in Egypt.

  • 🚨 Breaking: A session has just been scheduled for Saturday night in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a huge waste of time.

Smart Brevity™ 459 words ... a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: Climate's missed moment

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Illustration: Axios Visuals

The dominant fault line at the two-week global climate summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh: worsening conflicts between rich and poor nations over who should pay for climate damages, and when.

  • Why it matters: Even if an eleventh-hour deal is reached at COP27, it's likely to be more incremental than transformative — failing to grapple fully with more than a century of greenhouse gas emissions.

So the world is unlikely to look back on an "Egypt Accord" as a fork in the road where climate disasters were headed off — and developing countries got adequate resources to cope with global warming's impacts.

🔎 Between the lines: In fact, COP27 may provide a lesson in how not to conduct diplomacy.

  • This summit has been unusually chaotic, with human rights activists persecuted and logistical snafus that plagued the first week.
  • The second week has culminated in a negotiating frenzy of talks, with talks slated to run well into the weekend.

🔬 Zoom in: The tasks before negotiators are daunting.

  • Nowhere has this been more evident than in the discussions on climate change "loss and damage." This refers to the fact that developing nations — which contributed the least to present-day global warming — are being hit the hardest by its impacts.
  • The negotiation of a fund that industrialized nations, which are most responsible for climate change, would pay into for such damages has been excruciatingly slow.
  • The EU has offered to create such a fund — but with conditions that have made some countries balk for fear of excluding some countries that need it, and the condition that China pay into it as well.

🇺🇸 This has complicated things for the U.S., which has so far opposed establishing a fund at these talks but is open to moving that way over time.

  • Developing countries seek to leave the summit with a fund in hand. But talks could end with an agreement to hold more meetings.

The intrigue: The fact that loss and damage made it onto the official agenda at a climate summit illustrates how the pace of climate change is outdoing the speed of negotiations.

  • Record-shattering extreme weather and climate events struck China, Pakistan, Europe, the U.S. and Africa in the past year alone.
  • On the solutions side, progress has been swifter and more significant on the national level than at the UN venue.

The bottom line: As UN Secretary-General António Guterres bluntly put it upon arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh: "No one can deny the scale of loss and damage we see around the globe. The world is burning and drowning before our eyes. ... I urge all parties to show that they see it — and get it."

  • The results so far suggest they don't.

Go deeper.

Please follow this weekend as COP27 nears a conclusion.