Wopke Hoekstra, in an interview with the European Newsroom which AFP is part of, said recent trips to China, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa had shown him the difficulties to overcome.
In meetings he said he heard different countries’ formal and informal positions and parsed them to look for a possible “landing zone”.
“In each of these domains, renewables, energy efficiency, methane, carbon markets, phasing out fossil (fuels), you know, I’m always looking for cues, tabling proposals, listening to opinions, trying to reformulate a certain position” in order to narrow differences, he said.
Without referring to any particular countries, he said that at times he thought “there might be something here that is... let’s say, more progressive than the official statements” being publicly articulated.
But “I can only say that even with indeed sometimes a distinction between formal and informal (positions), we do have an uphill climb that we face, because the ambition simply is very high”.
One key point of contention, he acknowledged, is a “loss and damage fund” that is meant to be set up and which would see wealthier countries pay into it and especially vulnerable countries be beneficiaries.
Hoekstra made it clear that he believed China, now boasting the second-biggest economy in the world, should be a contributor, not a beneficiary.
“With all that affluence and with all that economic power also comes responsibility. And that is the case for China. It is also for others,” he said.
The commissioner said the fund should pay out to “only a limited number of countries, rather than for whoever experiences climate disasters”.
He noted that the fund “is not to compensate (for) loss and damage” as such, only to ensure that a country hit by a climate calamity “has the ability to continue”.
Some countries going to COP28 are even “a bit iffy on whether it should be called ‘loss and damage’“ because of that, though he called such questioning “secondary”.
“It’s just important that we explain what the criteria are for eligibility and then the fund has to be formed,” he said.
The loss and damage fund, agreed in outline at the last COP, is meant to deliver $100 billion in aid each year for vulnerable countries to draw on.
While substantial, the promised money is a fraction of the $2 trillion the UN estimates will be needed annually by 2030 to fund efforts to adapt to climate change and related aid for developing countries.