Loss and Damage in Global Climate Agenda An Illusion for Vulnerable Countries -By Zulker Naeen


The UNFCCC finally included “Loss and Damage” in its current agenda, now it is a focal dialogue of the international climate policy arena. The emergence of ‘Loss and Damage’ is caused by the realization that existing mitigation commitments and actions won’t prevent dangerous climate change-related impacts.
However, the work stream to create the Paris rulebook doesn’t include ‘Loss and Damage’ as an agenda point, meaning loss and damage have not been given a major space in the political UNFCCC process.
Until now, not all climate change impacts can be successfully adapted to, be it due to financial, technical or physical constraints. Meanwhile, vulnerable countries, like Small Island Developing States, already experience loss and damage and the scope will increase over the next years.
The COP23, the first “Island COP” with Fiji as a presidency, provides a unique opportunity for Small Island Developing States and other vulnerable developing countries to raise awareness for their climate change-related challenges, and to bring their concerns into the center of the negotiations.
The Warsaw International Mechanism for ‘Loss and Damage’ in 2013, got embedded institutionally within the international climate regime – providing a platform to explore and identify effective responses to climate change-induced loss and damage.
However, ‘Loss and Damage’ is an ambiguous concept for the vulnerable countries, especially those disproportionally affected by climate change. In contrast, developed countries have sought to limit discussion of liability and compensation, framing loss and damage as a matter of adaptation.
“Developed countries can’t keep putting off the issue. It must feature in the global stock take of steps being taken by governments around the world to combat climate change.” Sandeep Chamling Rai, senior adviser for global adaptation policy, WWF International.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro – Courtesy of Alertnet
But, according to Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for ActionAid International, “Loss and damage is at the core of the COP23 agenda. It is now the third pillar to combat climate change, becoming more important as the first two pillars mitigation and adaptation were not strengthened when they were supposed to be.”
At the COP23, another major global initiative launched to provide insurance to 400 million poor and vulnerable people around the world by 2020. The project, called the InsuResilience Global Partnership, aims to provide insurance against the damage increasingly being caused by global warming.
The first Partnership Forum of this project brought together signatories and aspiring members in a joint effort to lay the foundation for effective collaboration in the field of financial protection against climate change.
It represents a joint effort of G20 and V20 countries to protect vulnerable populations from the adverse effects of climate change. More than 30 partners from governments, civil society, international organizations, academia and the industry have already expressed their support and commitment.
The forum provided an inclusive platform for participants from all sectors to discuss the role of the partnership for the broader resilience agenda and to develop concrete priorities and measures for disproportionately affected countries. The Global Partnership Forum will take place annually to facilitate communication and exchange of information and knowledge among its members.
“The global partnership is a practical response to the needs of those who suffer loss because of climate change,” said Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji. The small island’s chairing of the climate talks has highlighted climate impacts, and climate insurance has been one of the major themes of discussion.
The next forum might clear the pathway of negotiation; where insurance scheme is now a strategic tool to prepare countries for climate change. However, international NGO ActionAid said that insurance is not a safety net for all.
“Insurance might turn out to be a piece of the puzzle, but we can’t pretend that it’s a safety net for everyone,” said Harjeet Singh. “Insurance does sometimes help people who are impacted by floods or cyclones, but it won’t be an option for those facing certain losses.”
There is no estimate of how much money is needed by countries suffering climate change-induced loss and damage now and in the future.
‘Who will bear the costs of insurance premiums for the various global initiatives?’ is a question. In contrast, developed countries aren’t allowing UN climate talks to make any progress on the issue of climate finance. However, it is hard to say that the insurance initiatives for vulnerable to climate change impacts are on the right pathway; yet to identify the requirements to do to account for the loss and damage.
Already, it has addressed that the insurance policies has overlooked the climate impacts that are relatively slow, such as drought, sea level rise and ocean acidification, which are the severe climate change impact faced by the vulnerable countries.
However, one of the main hopes for vulnerable countries during COP23 was that the discussions on ‘Loss and Damage’ would move beyond the current, very technical, negotiations on the sidelines by the developed countries to a more inclusive and political one that takes place at the heart of the discussions on the Paris Rulebook. n

Author: Zulker Naeen is a Freelance Journalist at Climate Tracker. He is also a communication graduate of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB).

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