Loss and Damage Mechanism still unresolved

131206_loss_and_damageOn Friday, December 5, the SBSTA and SBI issued a combined recommendation to the COP on the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (LDM). This Mechanism, established at COP19 last year, is one we’ve been watching here at COP20. The UNFCCC Parties’ gave themselves a deadline in Warsaw for finalizing the Mechanism’s Executive Committee and two-year workplan in Lima.

Over the past year, both of these mandates have occupied the attention of the Parties most vulnerable to loss and damage and the international development agencies and others working to assist them. Millions of people around the globe will experience the kind of certain and permanent losses that surpass adaptation efforts. Case studies have already documented loss and damage by households in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Micronesia, Mozambique and Nepal. The LDCs report that the 2°C limit in global temperature rise (over historical levels) now being targeted by the UNFCCC will increase water stress for 350 to 600 million people, and threaten up to 15% of Sub-Saharan ecosystem species with extinction. Earlier this year, according to The Guardian, Kiribati (the first nation to take such an action) bought land in Fiji for its anticipated climate refugees. Clearly, the COP20 outcomes on the LDM are highly significant. (For more specifics on LDM, read this earlier blog post.)src.adapt.960.high.1381848848761

Here’s what we know so far:

Executive Committee make-up. The SBSTA/SBI document contains proposed language retaining the current interim Executive Committee and charging it with implementing the submitted workplan. The recommended draft decision also stipulates that the permanent Committee be elected and in place no later than March 2015.

As of Friday, the question about the size and makeup of the permanent Committee was still unresolved, perhaps because of the concerns raised about the interim Committee’s membership. Eight of the ten members are not from developing and most vulnerable countries, for which the LDM is designed.

The recommended draft decision provides one option and two alternates, all with the “aim of achieving a fair, equitable and balanced representation.”

Option 1 – 16 members:

  • Two from each of the 5 UN regional groups.
  • One from a SID state
  • One from an LDC
  • Two from Annex I Parties
  • Two from non-Annex I Parties

Alternate 1 stipulates 10+ members, balanced between developed and developing countries, with two representatives each from the Adaptation Committee, Least Developed Countries Expert Group, Standing Committee on Finance, Technology Executive Committee, and Consultative Group of Experts on National Communications from non-Annex I countries. Additionally, the Committee would include one member from an as yet to be determined list of international organizations. This composition represents the initial 10-member interim Committee, augmented with representation from international organizations.

Alternate 2 provides for 12 members “with equal representation between developed countries and developing countries.”

Closed consultations have been held since last Friday to sort out this matter. We are waiting now for release of the results, which according to the COP 20 website were concluded last night. Stay tuned.

Two-Year Workplan. It is notable that the draft decision language from the SBSTA/SBI approves the initial two-year workplan of the Executive Committee, despite the anticipated struggle to reach agreement on its content. Party submittals this fall highlighted gaps in the draft workplan, including the absence of a long-term strategic vision and concrete deliverables on finance, technology transfer, and calosspacity building.

Perhaps the larger issue  — not found in either of these two Mechanism matters — is the place of loss and damage within the larger COP context: will it achieve a level of visibility and prominence alongside adaptation (not tucked within it) as many hope? With this COP’s focus (beyond the ADP work) on the intersection of sustainable development and climate change, we might well see some strong advancement on this issue.