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Who should pay for the damage caused by natural disasters caused by climate change? It is one of the main topics of discussion at the Climate Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. All the players of the world will gather there in two weeks.
European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is leading the talks on behalf of the European Union. The European Union negotiates as one bloc. Today he got his mandate from European climate ministers, which Timmermans describes as “building bridges and bringing the entire international community together.”
That would be a good job. Last year’s summit was mainly about “survivalism” about the possibility of not heating the Earth more than a degree and a half. More and more climate scientists are now openly skeptical of its usefulness, but the European commissioner remains cautiously positive. “You can still do that,” he says. “We have to keep the countries on the agreements made in Glasgow.”
The European Union is at the forefront of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The union has committed to reducing emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. Timmermans hopes that a good example will follow. “A lot will depend on where China and India stand. We need to work with them to reduce emissions there as well.”
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Last year, all eyes in the world were on Glasgow, and now there is less interest in the climate summit. The European Union is preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, the consequences of which will also have dire consequences for the climate. Since Russia has almost turned off the gas tap, many countries are turning to coal, which emits a lot of carbon dioxide when burning and is even more polluting.
Timmermans is concerned, but notes that European climate goals are not in jeopardy: There is also more interest than ever in investments in renewable energy. “If you accelerate to energy from wind, solar, and hydro, you will keep additional coal use fairly short, and your emissions reduction goals will not be jeopardized.”
Russians also come to Sharm el-Sheikh. The European Union will not talk to the Russian delegation because of the war in Ukraine. This is a policy. But Timmermans will listen intently to the Russians, “because it’s a UN meeting,” he said. According to him, this is probably the only point where they may remain somewhat constructive, because they themselves also suffer greatly from climate change.
The topic that will get a lot of attention this year is what is called ‘Loss and Damage’. Natural disasters caused by climate change are increasing. What should be done to reduce the damage and who is responsible? Small island states at risk of disappearing and other vulnerable states want a special fund to compensate them.
According to Timmermans, the point is on the agenda with the support of the European Union, but other rich countries, including the United States, do not want to prejudge the outcome of that discussion. Then the poorer countries can address them specifically about their responsibility and they may have to pay financially for it, which they want to avoid.
He woke up
“So put it on the agenda, and keep the outcome reasonably open,” is the answer according to Timmermans in this discussion. He is already considering concrete measures, such as a global warning system, which tells you much earlier and more accurately when dangerous weather threatens. According to the European Commissioner, President Egypt is counting on the support of the European Union as a bridge in this debate.
“If you see how very cautious Americans were in this discussion last year, we made real progress, but of course I’d like to go faster. But the amount of natural disasters in the last year woke everyone up.”
Are these kinds of climate conferences still the way to make change happen? “We did it in Glasgow, so I don’t know why we couldn’t do it again this year, even under these very difficult circumstances. We must not give up.”
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