Let climate change forum rethink loss and damage
What you need to know:
- Despite the rising costs of climate-related disasters, developing countries should consider other means of dealing with them and also funding modalities.
- Developed countries have already promised $100 billion annually to poor countries for mitigation and adaptation climate change activities.
Loss and damage (L&D) was introduced in 1991 by the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), which proposed an international insurance pool to compensate small island and low-lying countries vulnerable to sea-level rise.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) then negotiated the Bali Action Plan and established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, albeit without a defined remit. L&D and the mission assigned to the mechanism were embedded in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
In policy discussions, L&D relates to the impacts of climate change that cannot be remedied through mitigation and adaptation while, in climate science, it covers “residual impacts”, accepting that there are limits to the extent to which people or natural systems can adapt. Given the slow mitigation, climate change impacts are likely to exceed adaptation limits. Policy discussions focus on developing countries.
As the human and economic costs of disasters escalate, annual L&D financial needs in developing countries are estimated to reach $200-580 billion by 2030. A projected 216 million people will be forced by climate-related impacts to migrate within their countries, resulting in a humanitarian crisis.
It was against this backdrop that, at the recent global climate conference, COP26, the Group of 77 plus China, a powerful grouping of nations representing 85 per cent of the world’s population, rooted for a Loss and Damage Facility as a formal funding delivery body.
Compensation for damage
Poor countries were determined to secure a commitment from rich countries for compensation for damage from climate change but their assertion of their moral right to that was met with reluctance from wealthier nations, fearing that compliance could expose them to unlimited financial liability.
Despite the rising costs of climate-related disasters, developing countries should consider other means of dealing with them and also funding modalities.
First, developed countries have already promised $100 billion annually to poor countries for mitigation and adaptation climate change activities. Developing countries rely on donations and support from developed countries for other issues.
Secondly, developed countries taking responsibility for heat-trapping emissions would be a precedent for litigation under international law and could expose them to recompensating developing countries every time a climate disaster occurs. The developed countries should help to strengthen the disaster capacities of the climate-related ministries or departments in developing countries.
Thirdly, donors are fatigued by the innumerable requests for assistance. Perhaps a component of the $100 billion annually pledged by developed countries should be earmarked for L&D activities and not insist on the two contributions simultaneously.
Dr Kakonge is a former Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN Office and WTO in Geneva. [email protected]