With less than two days to go before the scheduled close of the COP27 climate talks currently underway here, only one thing is clear: the meeting is not going to end by November 18 — an indication of the sharpness of the battle lines between the developing and developed countries.

After three decades of asking, the developed world finally agreed this time to put ‘loss and damage’ on the agenda (L&D refers to measures to be taken proactively to help a country hit by a climate event to get back on its feet). At this point, the wheels got stuck in mud. Countries of the global south want a ‘fund’ or a ‘facility’ announced first — the details could be worked out later — but the rich countries, who are expected to pay up, are dithering, saying that the details should be negotiated before any facility is set up.

This is just one example. There are ticklish negotiations in the offing, such as on whether China and India should also pay the poor countries that suffer from the effects of global warming, whether efforts should be to phase down all fossil fuels or coal first and on how to increase global climate financial flows.

In a world beset by energy crisis and faced with an imminent recession, climate negotiations are stickier than ever before.

Against this backdrop, the COP27 Presidency released on Thursday a draft, which it calls “non paper” to indicate the preliminary nature of the document. The document, which is based on the COP President, Egypt’s has gathered from its consultations and not one that has been brought out after detailed multi-country deliberations, could however form the basis for negotiations in the coming days.

First of all, it is too big – 20 pages – and features “placeholders for relevant outcomes” (meaning gaps to be filled up after negotiations) as many as 14 times. The size indicates that it is more like a wish list of everybody.

Still there are some broad hints that might indicate the way talks could go.

While each para starts with words like “notes that”, “stresses that” and “acknowledges that”, just two paragraphs start with the words “decides that”. Both are under the head ‘just and equitable transition’. One is a decision to “establish a work program on just transition to discuss pathways to deliver on Article 2.1 of the Paris Agreement” (which is on finance flows). The second is a decision to “convene an annual high level ministerial round table on just transition.” These reflect the vociferous call of the developing countries for ‘just and equitable transitions.”

In what might be seen as a win for the developing world, the draft “expresses deep regret that developed countries who have the most capabilities financially and technologically to lead in reducing their emissions, continue to fall short in doing so, and are taking inadequate and unambitious goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”

However, the draft fails to mention phase down of all fossil fuels, a demand of India that got unexpected support of the EU, triggering suspicions that it might be a gambit. It is also lacks in specifics on finance, which has brought forth loud protests from many climate activists. Of course, it is now a very basic document; the final agreement—if there is one—could be vastly different.

Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, Actionaid Association, India, a climate advocacy group, has said that the draft is “another lost opportunity to make substantive advances towards a bold outcome”. He has noted that the potential of the proposal tabled by India, with wider support of EU to phase down all fossil fuels including oil and gas, and not just coal, “looks lost”.

“The language on ‘debt’ is weak. The actions proposed are not enough to address the debt burden of people of the least developed and developing countries. The proposal for debt cancellation is the starting point in our journey of achieving climate justice.”

Chachra has further noted that the “people and nations most affected by climate crisis urgently need an agreed mechanism and funding for ‘loss and damage’.”