The European Union is committed to further cutting emissions

The European Union pledged to step up its emissions cuts at United Nations climate talks on Tuesday as developing nations blamed wealthy polluters for falling short in efforts to help them deal with global warming.

The COP27 conference in Egypt was dominated by calls for rich countries to fulfill their pledges to finance green transitions for poor countries that are less responsible for global emissions, build their resilience and compensate them for climate-related losses.

The meeting comes as global emissions are set to reach an all-time high this year, making the ambitious target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C relative to pre-industrial levels a long way off.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans told delegates that the EU will update its climate commitment because it will be able to exceed its original plan to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

He said the 27-nation bloc would now be able to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent from 1990 levels.

“The EU is here to move forward, not backward,” Timmermans told COP27 delegates.

The invasion of Ukraine by fossil fuel exporter Russia has overshadowed talks in Egypt, with activists accusing the Europeans of seeking to tap Africa for natural gas after Russia cut supplies.

But Timmermans denied that the 27-nation bloc was in a “gas rush” in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine.

“So don’t let anyone tell you here or outside that the EU is backing off,” he said.

Activists said the EU declaration was not enough.

“This small increase announced today at COP27 does not do justice to the calls of the most vulnerable countries on the front lines,” said Chiara Martinelli, of Climate Action Network Europe.

“If the European Union, which has a long history of emitting greenhouse gases, is not mitigating climate change, who will?”

North versus south

COP27 exposed deep divisions between wealthy polluters and countries vulnerable to the harshest effects of climate.

“The lack of leadership and ambition on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is troubling,” said Senegalese Environment Minister Alioune Nodoye, speaking on behalf of the LDCs group.

Belize’s climate change minister, Orlando Habit, has called for more action by the G20 of the world’s richest nations, responsible for 80 percent of global emissions, meeting at a summit in Indonesia.

“At how many COPs have we been advocating for urgent climate action? And how many more do we need, how many lives do we need to sacrifice,” Habitt said.

UN climate talks often take extra time, and this year’s meeting, due to end on Friday, could not be different.

The first draft of the final declaration has only bullet points so far, with a line about “the urgent need for action to keep 1.5C within reach”.

Rich and developing countries are sharply divided over money at COP27.

Developing countries say Pakistan’s floods this year, which have cost the country up to $40 billion, have highlighted the urgent need for a “loss and damage” compensation fund.

In a small breakthrough, the United States and the European Union agreed to discuss the issue at COP27.

But Western governments prefer to use existing financial channels rather than build a new one.

The draft declaration mentions “the need for financing arrangements to address” losses and damages – language used by the US and Europeans since the inception of COP27 on November 6.

“Loss and damage must remain firmly on the table as we continue to see the increasing severity of the impacts of climate change everywhere,” Samoan Prime Minister Fiami Naomi Mutafa told delegates.

“The financial burden of loss and damage falls almost entirely on the affected countries and not those most responsible for climate change.”

By Laurent Tomette and Kelly McNamara

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