Loss and Damage – In or Out?

thThe evolving fate of loss and damage (L&D) and the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) we have been covering has been less visible during this COP than the larger ADP effort to lay the groundwork for an agreement in Paris next year. However, the absence of loss and damage in the draft decision on ADP published early this morning is among the core issues many developing countries have identified as preventing them from agreeing to the document. It remains unclear whether or not it is among the “deal breaker” points for several negotiation groups, including the Least Developed Countries, Small Island States and the Africa Group.

While we wait for Parties to reach enough agreement to close the COP 20 today, we can share some insights from a side event earlier this week that considered whether anchoring adaptation and L&D in the Paris agreement is desirable or not, and different approaches for doing so.

Panelists included negotiators Pa Ousman Jarju (The Gambia, for LDCs), Mr. Gottfriedvon Gemmingen (Germany for the EU) and Mr. Antonio CanasCalderon (El Salvador of the LMDC), along with Koko Warner (UN University) and Sabina Minninger (Bread for the World). Overall, there was significant difference between the approach of the EU and that of the LDCs, with the former focused exclusively on a risk management approach and an insistence that L&D is a part of adaptation. Of the panel, only the EU representative was opposed to anchoring adaptation and loss and damage in the Paris agreement.

Mr. Jarju, in representing the LDC position, insisted that anchoring adaptation and the WIM in the Paris agreement in equal parity with mitigation is essential because it would allow for the necessary holistic approach warranted by the inherent linkages between the three. The LDCs also support a global adaptation goal, and a financial facility able to provide swift, agile and sufficient financing for addressing losses and damages.

In his remarks, Mr. von Gemmingen suggested there were some points of convergence with the LDCs’ positions, but in acknowledging the real risks of loss and damage, he maintained that the ways to address it are through adaptation and risk management. Mr. von Gemmingen’s posited several points arguing against anchoring adaptation or the WIM in the Paris agreement:

  • Article 2 is a mitigation objective, although adaptation aspects are included and can be dealt with by mitigation.
  • The UNFCCC does not need to reinvent the wheel, and should have only a strong analytic role.
  • It is not self evident that a new instrument would be more effective than already existing instruments and model processes dealing with certain aspects of risk.
  • The work of the WIM will continue for a longer period than the new agreement.
  • Loss and damage has been dealt with under the COP, and continues to be dealt with there with all existing institutions and approaches because it belongs among the more general considerations.

IMG_0816For Ms. Warner, the crux of the question is priorities. She pointedly stated that L&D is programmed into our future because of past choices; that we need to deal with it; and that if we don’t deal with it in the Paris agreement, it will happen and we won’t be prepared, creating serious disruption to sustainable development. She also contended that the UNFCCC needs to send the signal, and that WIM must be in the Paris agreement in order to send that signal – that is the UNFCCC’s responsibility. With this issue, in Ms. Warner’s estimation a high political priority, she emphasized that whether L&D is large or small depends on the decisions here.

As we wait to see if consensus will be reached on the ADP draft decision nearly a full day beyond the planned closing of COP 20, these side event insights help in understanding the thorn this issue poses in the draft ADP decision.

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One final note is that despite the fact that L&D can be found in the “Elements for a draft negotiating text” referenced in the draft decision Annex, the multiple options for how it might be addressed range from deeply anchored to not included at all. If countries clearly doomed to loss and damage can’t get it into the COP 20 ADP decision, they will very likely have a hard road ensuring its survival in the Paris agreement negotiating text.