At the United Nations climate conference in Egypt, where negotiators were frantically attempting to break an impasse over loss and damage funds for impoverished countries devastated by natural catastrophes, US climate envoy John Kerry tested positive for COVID-19.
The negotiations, which were supposed to terminate on Friday but have been going on with no apparent conclusion, have grown tenser as a result of Kerry’s illness.
The contentious topic of “loss and damage” funding for less developed countries to deal with the consequences of climate change has arisen during discussions at the COP27 meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
“He is fully vaccinated and boosted and experiencing mild symptoms. He is working with his negotiations team and foreign counterparts by phone to ensure a successful outcome of COP27,” Kerry’s spokeswoman Whitney Smith wrote in a statement late on Friday.
Read also: #COP27: EU threatens to leave negotiations
Loss and damage continue to be the main source of contention between wealthy and developing countries, particularly the question of how to pay nations that have already been devastated by mega-storms, wildfires, floods, and other climate-related disasters.
As press briefings and plenaries were rescheduled or cancelled by Friday evening, negotiations, at least those that were visible, came to a standstill. As they modified their airline reservations for Saturday’s lengthy overtime negotiations, diplomats expressed their hope for a late-night breakthrough.
“I think we’re in for a bit of a long haul,” World Resources Institute’s International Climate Director David Waskow said.
“Loss and damage sit at the centre in terms of what needs to be done to get this over the finish line,” he said.
Story was adapted from Aljazeera.