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Environmental ministers warn UN climate summit could roll back progress

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Environmental ministers from multiple countries warned that the United Nations climate summit in Egypt could roll back progress that international negotiators have made in previous years.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that ministers from Canada, New Zealand and Norway said at a press conference that negotiators at the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh are close to killing progress that was made at last year’s summit in Scotland.

They said that a draft agreement that has been proposed would basically abandon the goal to limit heating of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Under that treaty, the countries agreed to keep the warming well below 2 degrees but preferably to 1.5 degrees.

Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s environment minister, said that the agreement would allow the world’s largest economies to increase their official targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but the ministers did not specify more clearly how the 1.5-degree target would be undermined.

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“We cannot leave Sharm el-Sheikh by having abandoned the possibility of keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius alive,” Guilbeault said. “And right now we are very concerned that is what is being proposed.”

The European Union (EU) has expressed similar concerns, the Post reported. Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission and the EU’s top climate official, threatened earlier Saturday that the EU delegation was ready to walk out of negotiations over the issue, saying it was “completely unacceptable” to European negotiators for the 1.5-degree goal “to die here today.”

“We don’t want a result at any price,” he said. “We will not accept a result if it takes us back. All [EU] ministers, as they have told me, like myself, are prepared to walk away if we do not have a result that does justice to what the world is waiting for, namely that we do something about this climate crisis.”

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The ministers from Canada, New Zealand and Norway have thrown their support behind a deal to tie emissions reductions to an agreement to create a funding program to cover the damages that poorer countries face from climate change, the Post reported.

They said they believe they can reach a deal with the United States, China and developing countries based on their negotiations.

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The creation of a fund that would see wealthier nations compensate poorer ones for “loss and damages,” long sought by developing countries, has been one of the most hotly debated issues at the conference, known as COP27.

The conference was set to end Friday, but negotiators are continuing their talks into the weekend in hopes of reaching a deal.

Every country at the conference must agree to any potential deal.

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