Trust breaks down at Cop27 as UN chief urges countries to reach agreement in final 24 hours

‘This is no time for finger-pointing. The blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction,’ UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warns

In the final 24-hour stretch of Cop27, countries remain bitterly divided over the path forward on the global climate crisis.

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres arrived back in Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday to push for an ambitious outcome, warning countries that it was “crunch time”.

“I am here to appeal to all parties to rise to this moment and to the greatest challenge that humanity is facing,” Mr Guterres said at a solemn briefing with Egypt’s Cop27 president, Sameh Shoukry.

“The world is watching and has a simple message to all of us: stand and deliver. Deliver the kind of meaningful climate action that people and planet so desperately need.”

Mr Shoukry said that progress was lacking on a number of issues “with persisting divergent views amongst parties”.

The secretary-general listed the major sticking points, beginning with the issue of loss and damage.

“Loss and damage” has been pushed to the forefront at Cop27 by developing countries who want a new financial fund to compensate them for the disproportionate climate impacts they face due to fossil fuel burning by rich countries.

“There has been clearly, as in past times, a breakdown in trust between North and South, and between developed and emerging economies,” Mr Guterres said. “This is no time for finger-pointing. The blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction.”

To rebuild trust, financial support must be provided to developing countries for loss and damage, he said.

“No one can deny the scale of loss and damage we see around the globe The world is burning and drowning before our eyes,” he added.

“I urge all parties to show that they see it – and get it. Send a clear signal that the voices of those on the frontlines of the crisis are finally being heard.”

The UN leader then addressed the importance of retaining the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement, the temperature limit set to avoid deepening climate destruction.

There have been fears that some countries were pushing for a watering-down of language on 1.5C in the final Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, Carbon Brief reported.

“The 1.5 target is not simply about keeping a goal alive – it’s about keeping people alive,” Mr Guterres said, and called on parties to make sure commitment to the goal remained in the final pact.

To meet 1.5C, he called on countries to also up their ambition on shifting to renewables to cut emissions. “Fossil fuel expansion is hijacking humanity,” Mr Guterres noted.

“Renewables are the exit ramp from the climate hell highway.”

The final issue he raised was over climate finance. Rich countries have still not delivered on $100bn annual climate finance for poor countries, which was promised by 2020, and there is no clear path on the plan to double finance for climate adaptation by 2025.

“The climate clock is ticking, and trust keeps eroding. The parties at Cop27 have a chance to make a difference – here and now,” he said. “I urge them to act – and act quickly.”

While a Cop27 outcome remains elusive, Egypt’s presidency published a 20-page early draft of items which may make the final agreement on Thursday.

It contained no details on establishing a loss and damage fund which sparked immediate concern from developing and vulnerable countries.

“Anything less than establishing a Loss and Damage fund at this COP is a betrayal of the people who are fighting for humanity,” said HM Molwyn Joseph, of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which are facing immediate impacts from sea level rise and more extreme storms.

Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s minister of climate change adaptation, told the press briefing on Thursday that he could not go home empty-handed to his island nation which faces extreme sea-level rise.

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