It was Thursday morning on the final week of a COP due to finish the following afternoon.
Minister Eamonn Ryan had just completed one of several updates of the negotiations to the
civil society groups from Ireland. It was laudable that he had found the time to do this,
having recently been appointed as the Lead EU Negotiator on the fraught agenda item of
Loss and Damage. This was the principal issue for the countries of the Global South at this
COP and the clamour was proving irresistible for the establishment of a fund whereby the
Developed World accepted their responsibility for imposing more severe and more frequent
deadly climate extremes on poorer and more vulnerable countries. Ethically and morally
there was no case to answer. Climate scientists had confidently established that events such
as last summer’s heatwave in Europe or the catastrophic floods in Pakistan were events that
were rendered much more likely and severe than would have been the case in the absence
of human modification of the atmosphere principally by developed countries (including

Despite such a demand having featured at COPs for 30 years, little progress had been made.
The potential donor countries had been reluctant to sign open-ended cheques and the
modalities for establishing eligibility for recipients were not decided. But this was the make
or break item for this COP and while other issues, such as the need to hold on to the
advances made in COP26 in Glasgow, were also the subject of skirmishes elsewhere, it was
clear that progress, or not, in establishing a Loss and Damage fund would define COP27.
As the small Irish group was leaving the Irish government delegation office, another
delegation was waiting in the wings. The delegation of the Government of Palau was
seeking a bilateral meeting with EU negotiator Minister Ryan. Perhaps most people will
never have heard of this small island archipelago of 500 coral and volcanic islands in the
Pacific for whom climate change, and especially sea level is a matter of survival. Over the
next 48 hours such contacts with large numbers of countries would become more intense
and continue day and night in an effort to hammer out an agreement that could stand the
test of consensus required by the UN rules.

It is to Minister Ryan’s credit that he successfully brokered the agreement of the rest of the
EU and the acquiescence of the US as well as large numbers of the developing countries to a
potential deal. The principal components were that finance would be tied to mitigation
commitments and priority would be given to the highly vulnerable less developed countries.
It became clear by midnight on Saturday, however, that much of these conditional aspects
had disappeared from the proposed final text. While EU Vice-President Timmermans
threatened to walk away from the negotiations rather than accept a bad deal, compromise
was in the air from the exhausted negotiators. Even beyond the loss and damage issues,
proposals to increase ambition in line with the scientific needs to radically reduce emissions
by 2030 were watered down under the influence of the fossil fuel lobbyists and countries
such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia. When the final plenary was convened at 4 a.m. on
Sunday it was clear the Egyptian Presidency had not delivered. No commitment to phasing
out fossil fuels was evident. No commitment to achieve peaking of emissions by 2025 was

mentioned. No commitment to ceasing subsidies to fossil fuels was forthcoming. The text
also included a reference to low-emissions energy possibly opening the door to new
natural gas developments. The only meaningful achievement of this COP was a political
decision to establish a Loss and Damage fund. But the wrangling as to whether this should
include contributions from major emitters such as China and India, and what constitutes
‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ will be argued over for at least the next two

The influence of ‘petro-states’ has unfortunately stymied progress at Sharm el Sheikh, and
the same influences will be active next year at COP28 in Dubai. As the window to tackle
climate change is rapidly closing, the omens for avoiding the tipping point of 1.5 o C are
looking very bleak indeed. But no alternative to continuing to strive for multilateral
engagement has yet emerged and the words of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
ring true: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”