Loss and Damage – Hot Topic for Climate Negotiations

UNFCCC ADP2-10.CreativeCommons.SmallThrough multiple meetings this year, the ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform) is seeking to craft a viable negotiating text for a new, legally binding and long-lasting international climate change accord for consideration at the 21st meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties meeting (COP21), being held in Paris in December. By all accounts, there was far less progress than hoped for at ADP2-10, held in Bonn, Germany from Aug. 31-Sept. 4. Climate Action Network (CAN) International characterized it as “incremental.” The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) noted the unresolved “deep differences” on the Paris package elements, structure, and approaches to crosscutting issues. And, ActionAid, calling the progress “fragile,” concluded that the week’s work shortchanged poorer countries on key issues.

One of those key issues was Loss and Damage (L&D). (For a refresher on L&D within the UNFCCC, please see our coverage over the last two years.) L&D has become an exceedingly hot button issue for the poorest and most vulnerable countries, given what they are already facing, and even more so, what’s ahead.TyphoonDamage-CreativeCommons.Small

The 3,253 hydrometeorological (weather, climate and water) hazards reported around the globe between 2005 and 2014 caused more than 283,000 deaths and more than $980 million in economic losses. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, nearly 3.4 million people were affected by drought between mid-2014 and mid-2015, with Haiti and Honduras topping the list; the heat waves in India and Pakistan led to 3,700 deaths in the first half of 2015; and, storms and floods in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Malawi and Bangladesh impacted a reported 2 million citizens over that same period.

Support to address these losses has been and continues to be insufficient, and the need for far more help is widely predicted. This situation, combined with the glaringly inadequate global mitigation of GHGs to date, creates an urgency that developed countries are no longer able to ignore in the climate negotiations.

Discussions on L&D did deepen during ADP2-10, primarily focusing on institutional arrangements and technical support, crystallizing as the week went on around a nagging sticking point – will L&D be substantively addressed in the core agreement (developing countries’ position), or not (most developed countries’ position)? Specifically, the G77+China and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) called for “[p]lacing a loss and damage mechanism with a climate displacement coordination facility in the [core] agreement,” to replace the Warsaw International Mechanism for L&D (WIM) after 2020. Developed countries pushed back, not wanting to grant L&D such prominent status from which the spectre of compensation could more credibly arise. The Sept. 4 Working Document from the ADP2-10 break-outs on Adaptation and Loss and Damage gives a summary.

Our VLS delegation head, Tracy Bach, reported that continued brainstorming and strategizing yielded a discussion proposal from the U.S. and several other developed countries on the final day. It suggested making the WIM permanent through a COP decision and having it serve the new agreement after 2020. In this way, L&D would be kept from a place in the core agreement, even as it is recognized.

This proposal may pave the way for compromise on location of institutional arrangements. However, the issues of current and long-term sustainable funding for L&D and for any institutional arrangements will likely continue to haunt the road to Paris.SeaLevelRise

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