SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 at the U.N. climate talks in Egypt, a spokesperson said late Friday.
Kerry is experiencing “mild symptoms” and is fully vaccinated and boosted.
“He is working with his negotiations team and foreign counterparts by phone to ensure a successful outcome of COP27,” the statement read.
Kerry has been attending the two-week talks at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh which were due to end Friday but have gone into overtime.
New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister James Shaw said delegations are getting closer to reaching a deal on the thorny issue of loss and damage, but he warned that the talks could collapse “at the last minute.”
“There is the possibility that we could get an outcome, but also it could fall over at the last minute. And I think if that happened, it would be a real shame because this is as close as we’ve ever been before.
He said he has become “more optimistic,” since the “incredibly helpful” EU proposal which he says has helped in bridging the gap between the parties.
“It does now mean that the zone of agreement is getting kind of into much sharper relief,” he said.
“It’s one of those things where there’s devil in the details,” he said. “There is still some nuance underneath it. And my anxiety is that we don’t let that nuance trip us up.”
Antigua and Barbuda’s environment minister said they’ve made progress in climate talks particularly on the thorny issue of loss and damage.
“We are very busy and they’re making some progress and they’ve gotten some clarity on all positions,” Molwyn Joseph, who spoke on behalf of small island sates, told The Associated Press.
“It’s going to take all night to resolve all these issues.”
Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate appealed to negotiators at the United Nations COP27 climate conference Friday to deliver a financing facility for vulnerable countries suffering the impacts of climate change.
“We cannot leave COP27 without a finance facility for those on the frontlines,” Nakate said. “We must establish a loss and damage finance facility. And I hope that our leaders will do that.”
She also called for a phasing out of fossil fuels through halting continued investments in oil and gas.
“We cannot have justice if we are having new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure,” she said. “We need our leaders to stand for the people and for the planet.”
Meanwhile, dozens of activists gathered at the conference venue called for a concrete outcome from the two-week talks.
Disha Annappa Ravi, an environmental activist with the 350.org group, said they were “disappointed” that there has been no agreement so far on loss and damage financing.
“We have had half-hearted promises,” she said. “I want them (the negotiators) to acknowledge how serious the crisis is and actually act upon it.”
Talks are still deadlocked on main issues at the U.N. climate summit talks in Egypt, an umbrella body of more than 1,000 environmental organizations said Friday.
Harjeet Singh of Climate Action Network told The Associated Press that “there is a deadlock on two main issues” including finance for loss and damage in countries vulnerable to climate change and on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Union came forward Thursday to support the financing facility “but it has put some strange conditions which are not in line with the principles of Paris Agreement,” Singh said.
He singled out the United States as the main opponent blocking the climate compensation financing move proposed by the Group of 77 and China group, which has called for industrialized nations to foot the bill.
“We want the U.S. to show sympathy and empathy towards people already suffering from the climate crisis by backing up this proposal.” Singh said. “If the loss and damage fund is not established at the ongoing negotiations, we will call this COP a failure.”
A climate scientist urged negotiators at the United Nations climate conference to step up their efforts to achieve a deal on climate financing for vulnerable nations hit by climate change.
“This is no time for gains. This is no time to play politics,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
She said wealthy nations including oil-rich Saudi Arabia should show “solidarity” with people in vulnerable nations for climate change.
The funds, she said, are urgently needed because “the poorest, most marginalized people in developing countries are facing these extreme impacts. They’re losing lives and livelihoods. They’re literally watching their homes get washed away.”
Cleetus said they were still many unsolved issues as the Egyptian presidency of the conference said it was taking over the talks in an attempt to reach a deal.
“We’re waiting with bated breath and hope to see a good outcome,” she said.
Egyptian diplomat Wael Aboulmagd, speaking for the chair of COP27, defended the host country’s handling of the cover decision, an all-encompassing document that lays out the meeting’s political goals.
A first version running to 20 pages was released Thursday that was criticized for being vague, confusing and bloated. That was followed by an updated version slimmed down to half the length that came out Friday morning.
Aboulmagd said the first draft was “not a presidency position” but merely reflected the “incredibly diverse and divergent views” of the nearly 200 parties, or nations, attending the climate talks. “It couldn’t be the product of any single author.
”He said the first draft was whittled down from 51 pages and was “intended to show everyone what everyone else was saying,” he said.
The updated document on Friday “is our product,” Aboulmagd said. “That again I’ll stress is the presidency document.”He expected there would be “another iteration” following further feedback from delegations throughout the day.
Dozens of climate activists held a protest on Friday, demanding an end to investments in fossil fuels as negotiators at the United Nations climate conference are trying to reach a compromise on several thorny issues.
The protesters gathered Friday inside the conference venue in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, chanting: “Phase it out” and “Keep it in the ground” in reference to oil and gas drilling.
The protesters also called for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to keep alive the 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) warming limit set in the 2015 Paris agreement and for industrialized countries to pay for climate reparations.
Another climate protest is expected later Friday in the venue, known as the Blue Zone. Activists from Fridays For Future movement started to hang their banners.
A top European Union negotiator dealing with the thorny issue of ‘loss and damage’ payments for poor nations suffering climate catastrophes says the 27-nation bloc wants to make sure any money goes to the most vulnerable, while as many countries and companies as possible contribute.
Eamonn Ryan, who is Ireland’s environment minister, said Friday that a deal at this year’s U.N. climate talks in Egypt also needs to include a commitment to steeper emissions cuts so that fewer disasters happen in the first place.
“That’s our three asks,” Ryan told The Associated Press. “Protect the most vulnerable countries, broaden the donor base and do the business mitigation at the same time. I hope we can get agreement on that.
”While countries have publicly stuck to their rival positions, Ryan said he hoped for a “collaborative approach” behind closed doors.
“It’s inside meetings where you try and show cool heads and try to find common understanding,” he said. “It won’t work if it’s just divisive, finger-pointing politics.
”Ryan said that in addition to having more countries contribute to a loss and damage fund the world should also look at sectors like aviation and shipping, as well as the fossil fuel industry, to contribute.
The oil and gas companies in the world will make 3.9 trillion euros (dollars) in net income this year,” he said. “Even if a small percentage of that could be directed to this loss and damage fund it would make the world of a difference.”
Pakistan’s environment minister, whose country represents a group of dozens of developing states, pushed back against western proposals that tie aid for vulnerable nations hit by climate change to contributions by emerging economies and tougher emissions rules.
Sherry Rehman told delegates at the U.N. climate talks in Egypt on Friday that her group, known as ‘G77 and China,’ believes rival proposals to their own “are not tenable.”
Still, she indicated that the G77 and China group was working to adjust its proposal, which currently would require only industrialized countries such as the United States and those in Europe to pay into the so-called loss and damage fund.
A young activist from Ghana made an impassioned plea for negotiators at the U.N. climate summit in Egypt to come to an agreement that could help curb global warming.
Nakeeyat Dramani Sam, 10, told delegations to consider the future for people like her. Holding up a sign that said “Payment Due,” she also said it was time that rich countries compensate developing nations for the impacts of climate change.
“I put a simple question on the table. When can you pay us back? Because payment is overdue,” she said.
Dramani Sam said she had met with U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry earlier this week. She said Kerry had been nice to her and the meeting got her thinking about the generational gap.
“By the time I’m his age, god willing, it will be the end of this century,” she said. “The fate of the most vulnerable will be the fate of the world.”
“Have a heart and do the math. It’s an emergency.”
Her speech, during a so-called informal stocktaking session, brought Egyptian chairman of the COP27 meeting and delegates in the vast plenary hall to their feet with a standing ovation.
Germany’s foreign minister said the European Union is serious about delivering climate justice for poor countries suffering disastrous impacts of global warming, urging other major polluters to put up or shut up when it comes to providing financial support for those in need.
“We’re making clear that Europe is on the side of the most vulnerable states,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. “Others can now show which side they are on.”
“Spending money is not an end in itself, but it is about ensuring justice,” Baerbock said.
She added that with the bloc’s offer now public, “nobody can hide behind the European Union.
”Baerbock acknowledged that industrialized countries who were “mainly responsible for global warming up to now should also pay for the damage and losses as a matter of priority.
”But she warned that excluding major polluters and not also requiring them to cut their emissions would “be a totally wrong incentive system.
”Baerbock added that unless emissions are reduced more steeply, “no money in the world could pay for the damages and losses of the future.”
Antigua and Barbuda’s environment minister says they have concerns about an EU proposal on loss and damage funding for countries vulnerable to climate change made late Thursday at U.N. climate talks.
Molwyn Joseph, who spoke on behalf of small island states, said there are parts of the EU’s offer that need “adjusting,” without adding more details.
“We will wait until we meet and bilaterally to discuss the areas of concern,” he said.
Joseph met Friday with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock for talks on operationalizing loss and damage financing and said he will also hold separate talks later with China and the United States.
“We need an agreement at COP right now. That’s what we need, an agreement among all the parties,” Joseph said, adding there is a “strong possibility” to achieve an agreement on loss and damage funding by Saturday.
Dozens of nations spearheaded by island nation Vanuatu say they will seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on countries’ legal obligations to protect people who suffer from the impacts of climate change.
Vulnerable nations and other states, including New Zealand and the Alliance of Small Island States, supported the move.“
AOSIS will benefit greatly from this initiative … The moment of this advisory legal opinion is now,” said Antigua and Barbuda’s environment minister Molwyn Joseph, who spoke on behalf of small island sates.
Vanuatu environment and climate minister Ralph Regenvavu welcomed the growing coalition of nations in support of the move.
On U.N. climate talks, which are set to end today although likely to go into the weekend, Regenvavu said there was renewed hope following an EU proposal late Thursday night for a loss and damage fund.“
Overnight circumstances changed and we hope for a loss and damage deal today,” he said. “We are happy with the progress made so far.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Friday morning that the EU’s proposal late Thursday on a fund for vulnerable countries suffering the impacts of climate change was “a big step” in U.N. climate talks in Egypt.
The talks, set to end today but likely to go into the weekend, were buoyed by the EU offer that tied loss and damage funding for nations vulnerable to climate change with cuts to planet-warming gases.
Asked whether China will participate in such a loss and damage fund, Baerbock replied: “We are arguing massively for it.”
Baerbock said that “industrial nations carry responsibility for the past” and their wealth was built on using fossil energy. She added that “now we want to take our responsibility for the future together and that’s why we are arguing so much for countries such as China but also other big emitters also to participate in the future in supporting the weakest in the world together.
”But Baerbock did not think an agreement would could quickly.
“I packed my suitcase for the whole weekend,” she told German television.
EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said Friday that a proposal made by the bloc on funding for loss and damage and mitigation is “a final offer” that seeks to “find a compromise” between nations as negotiators seek a way forward at the U.N. climate talks in Egypt.
The EU Executive Vice President made a surprise offer late Thursday on tying compensation for climate disasters to tougher emissions cuts.
Timmermans said he was “encouraged” by immediate reaction to the proposal and more engagement on the offer is expected Friday.
“This is about not having a failure here,” said Timmermans. “We we cannot afford to have a failure. Now, if our steps forward are not reciprocated, then obviously there will be a failure. But I hope I hope we can avoid that.”