AAs Cop27 climate summit in Egypt stretches into overtime, chris bowens he has called for the “strongest possible action” to limit global warming to 1.5°C and backed the establishment of a fund to help the poor deal with the inevitable damages of worsening extreme weather.
In an interview with The Guardian, Australia’s climate change minister said the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh faced a push from some countries to water down the Glasgow pact last year, and that he had fought alongside others to ensure that the agreement be “reaffirmed”. and built upon,” not undone.
It was unclear if that would be agreed as talks deepened into the early hours of Saturday, although much of the Glasgow deal appeared to have been saved. The key point of contention was the issue known as loss and damage: how to finance the costs of rescue and reconstruction after catastrophic extreme weather events devastate people and infrastructure in vulnerable countries.
Long pressed by the developing world, it is on the agenda for the first time in Egypt. Despite suggestions that Australia strongly opposed it, Bowen said he was “very attracted” to creating a fund that raised money from a wide range of donors, worked in conjunction with multilateral development banks, including a reformed World Bankand focused on helping the “most vulnerable of all”.
The language implied that countries that were classified as developing 30 years ago but are now among the largest historical emitters, including China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, would have to pay along with the historically wealthy.
In a significant step on Friday night, Australia was part of an informal proposal led by the EU, and also backed by the US, a commission to consider how it would work with existing financial institutions. They called for the money to come from “a wide variety of parties and sources,” but did not specify whether that included large emerging economies like China. Developing countries were reviewing the proposal.
Speaking earlier, Bowen said he had taken over before police27 that each climate summit would build on what had been agreed before or, at the very least, maintain the status quo, but that was not the case. “I had assumed you didn’t need to fight for 1.5C [to stay in the agreement],” he said. “When I got here, there was a real push to water down the Glasgow deal and that’s not in place, so we had to fight, along with others.”
The minister said that the draft text for a Cop27 agreement was even weaker than the Glasgow pact. “But it’s much closer, and we could get to a better place,” he said.
While several assessments have said that the world is very likely to go beyond 1.5°C of warming on its current trajectory, and that the world would have to rely on carbon dioxide removal technology to lower temperatures after passing the mark, Bowen stressed that it was vital to continue to support 1.5C “in the strongest possible terms.”
“It’s important because if we’re not trying to stay at 1.5°C, what are we here for? because the difference between 1.5C and 1.7C in terms of impact on the planet is huge,” he said.
He linked the temperature goal to the fight for loss and damage. If countries handed over 1.5C, they would face a bigger damage bill, she said. “That is a big problem. We have to deal with both.”
Bowen has been warmly received by other ministers, who for the most part viewed the Morrison government as a climate laggard and at times an obstacle in negotiations. US climate envoy John Kerry used a speech this week to tell Bowen that he was “doing an incredible job of Demonstrating the difference a choice makes”, and the Egyptian presidency selected Bowen to co-lead a negotiating stream dealing with climate finance.
Scientists say that while Australia’s 2030 climate commitment (a 43% reduction in emissions compared to 2005 levels) has improved significantly since the election, it falls short of being consistent with limiting heating to 1.5 °C It has been found to be consistent with about 2C.
Asked what his strong support for 1.5C meant for Australia’s commitments, Bowen said: “I think it means we have to stay the course. As we have always said, if we can do better than 43%, we will. But 43% is a great demand in eight years. It requires big changes.”
Australia has avoided playing a direct role in a debate at Cop27 over whether to strengthen the language in a proposed agreement to support phasing out “continuously coal power” to phase out or eliminate all fossil fuels, including oil and gas. Australia is a major exporter of fossil fuels, including a sprawling gas industry.
Bowen’s statements have emphasized the other half of the equation: the need to rapidly accelerate renewable energy around the world during this decade. According to the drafts, it was expected to be included in a UN climate text for the first time.
The Australian delegation has used the conference to lobby for co-hosting rights for the 2026 climate summit with Pacific nations. The offer received a boost when Switzerland, seen as a potential rival within the group of Western European and other countries that have hosting rights that year, endorsed Australia.
Turkey has said it will launch a rival campaign, but the southern hemisphere is the favourite. Bowen said the Australia/Pacific proposal had strong support, “even from some countries that we thought might bid against us.”
He is supported by the Pacific Islands Forum, although Vanuatu’s climate minister, Ralph Regenvanu, told The Guardian that his country’s backing for the bid was conditional on Australia not backing any further fossil fuel subsidies.
Bowen said that this would not be a problem as that was the government’s position.
“And that’s not new. [Resources minister] Madeleine King has said the same thing,” he said. “Now, there are people who have different definitions of fossil fuel subsidies, but that’s not something we’re going to do.”
Bowen said his experience at Cop27 had reinforced that his job was “the most important job I’ve ever had, and the most important job I’m likely to ever have, because it’s the most important issue in australian politician Most of the time, it’s the major challenge facing the world and here I am, tackling it on behalf of the country, which is a great honor.”
“There’s an old saying I like, it’s a bit morbid, there are certain times in your life when you’re writing the first line of your obituary,” he said. This is what you will be remembered for, be it success or failure. This is kind of like in that territory.”