UN climate talks were thrown into disarray Saturday as the EU rejected a proposal by host country Egypt for lacking ambition on emissions cuts and warned it would rather leave with no deal than a bad one. But Egypt's Foreign Minister said he was hoping for a breakthrough and called on parties to "rise to the occasion".
Nearly 200 countries' representatives have gathered at the COP27 in Egypt for two weeks with the aim of driving forward action on climate change as the world faces a worsening onslaught of weather extremes.
But the talks have deadlocked over calls that wealthy polluters provide "loss and damage" funding for countries wracked by climate disasters, as well as over lack of ambition in tackling global warming.
After negotiations stretched through the night following the last official day Friday, the European Union roundly rejected a draft document from Egypt.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said the EU would "rather have no result than a bad result" and was willing to walk out of the negotiations altogether.
But he added that the 27-nation bloc was still hoping for a good outcome.
Hopes of a breakthrough
The EU wants Cop27 to have strong language on cutting emissions and to reaffirm the aspirational goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
"We are not here to produce papers, but to keep the 1.5C target alive," said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, however, said he was still hopeful of a "breakthrough" and defended his proposal.
"The vast majority of the parties indicated to me they considered the text as balanced and that they constitute a potential breakthrough that can lead to consensus," he said.
'Unacceptable' for EU
Many developing countries see the creation of a loss and damage fund at this meeting as a defining issue of the talks.
The EU has put forward a proposal to create such a fund - but has called for a broader set of donors and prioritising the most climate-vulnerable countries as recipients.
Young protesters at Cop27 demand climate damage fund
Timmermans said he was "worried" about the direction the negotiations took overnight.
He warned that if not enough is done to slash emissions and keep 1.5C alive, "there is no amount of money on this planet that will be able to address the misery that will occur through natural disasters, etc, that we're already seeing," he said.
With around 1.2C of warming so far, the world has seen a cascade of climate-driven extremes in recent months - from floods in Pakistan and Nigeria to heatwaves and droughts across the world.
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An official from the French energy transition ministry told AFP that the proposal from the Egyptian presidency, which has not been published officially, sought to undermine gains in emission reductions made last year at the Glasgow climate talks.
"This is unacceptable for France and for European Union countries," she said, adding that the proposed decision text would remove an obligation of countries to regularly strengthen their national targets in order to meet the 1.5C goal.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to limit global warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius compared to the late 19th century.
They also signed on to an aspirational goal of capping the rise in temperature to 1.5C, which scientists subsequently confirmed was a far safer guardrail against catastrophic climate impacts.
This more ambitious 1.5C target was embraced last year in Glasgow, with countries agreeing to annually review their carbon reduction goals.