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How UN climate conference negotiations are progressing


It's crunch time at the international Climate Conference in Egypt. Negotiators there are trying to resolve a couple of key issues that have been dominating talks at what is known as COP27. To talk them through, we're joined now by NPR's Nathan Rott, who is on the ground in the middle of the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Hey there, Nate.


KELLY: OK. So key issues they are trying to resolve - like what, specifically?

ROTT: Yeah. So the biggest issue that's come up at this climate conference is the topic of loss and damage. So loss and damage means basically whether rich countries like the U.S., which have contributed by far the most climate warming greenhouse gas emissions, owe anything to the smaller developing countries when they are hit by a climate-fueled disaster - for example, Pakistan earlier this year.

KELLY: Right, where they saw a horrific flooding.

ROTT: Yeah, right. So Pakistan was hit by these massive, torrential, monsoonal rains - killed more than 1,500 people and caused, by the World Bank estimates, more than $30 billion U.S. in damage. Pakistan doesn't have the money to deal with this, and it only contributed a fraction of the emissions that made flooding like that so bad. So the question is, should a country like the U.S. that did contribute to that disaster by burning fossil fuels and building up its economy - does it owe anything to help pay for those damages? This is something that developing countries, primarily in the Global South, have been asking for years. But it's really reached a head at this climate conference in Egypt.

KELLY: Well, and why? Why now?

ROTT: I mean, honestly, I think it's a reflection of the reality that climate change and its impacts are already here - the deadly flooding in Pakistan we talked about, India, the U.S., drought-fueling famine in the Horn of Africa, another fueling the megadrought in the West U.S., wildfires in the Arctic, around Europe, deadly heat waves. The science that we've altered the world's climate has been pretty clear for decades. That's why these sort of climate conferences exist. But the evidence that we're all living in a human-altered world, that's only growing stronger, and I think that's raising some difficult questions about responsibility.

KELLY: And does it seem, based on your reporting as you talk to people there, that they're getting any closer to answering those questions, any sort of consensus emerging?

ROTT: You know, honestly, no. I mean, there's still a few days of this conference left, but all the delegates and advocates that I've talked to here are fairly skeptical that this is going to be resolved at this COP in the next few days. Especially that's because, you know, richer countries, namely the U.S., are worried about the kinds of financial liability that a loss and damage deal could bring. I talked to Lucy Ntongai, a gender and climate advocate from Kenya. She's been hoping to see the establishment of a concrete fund or program, something called a facility, where rich countries can put money for this kind of damage.

LUCY NTONGAI: But since there's no direct confirmation, then that leaves me feeling a bit not in a very good position to what I'll be telling their local communities back at home.

ROTT: Clearly, you can hear there that she's pretty disappointed with the way things have gone.

KELLY: Yeah. OK. So the issue of loss and damage dominating these talks - what else are negotiators tackling?

ROTT: Yeah. So this year is actually supposed to be what's called a implementation year. Remember, last year, countries came to Glasgow with these big, glossy plans to reduce their climate-warming emissions. This is the year they're supposed to figure out what that actually looks like, how that is being done. We've seen some of that. U.S., for example, has been celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, but that bill alone will not get the U.S. all the way to President Biden's goal of reducing U.S. emissions by half by the year 2030. More legislation will likely be needed.

KELLY: NPR's Nathan Rott reporting from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Thank you, Nate.

ROTT: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.
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